[4.Special Enforcement of Doctrinal Teaching (Colossians 2:1 to Colossians 3:4).
(1) EXHORTATION TO STAND FAST IN THE FAITH, dictated by special anxiety for them and the sister churches, urging them to seek all wisdom in Christ alone, and to keep to the old simplicity of the gospel (Colossians 2:1-7).
(2) WARNING AGAINST SPECULATIVE ERROR, turning them “to philosophy and vain deceit” from Christ.
(a)For in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead.
(b)In Him they have the true spiritual circumcision of the New Covenant.
(c)From Him, and from Him alone, can they receive justification from sin, and the new life of grace (Colossians 2:8-15).
(3) WARNING AGAINST PRACTICAL SUPERSTITION.
(a)In relation to obsolete Jewish ordinances (Colossians 2:16-17).
(b)In worship of angels, sinning against the sole Headship of Christ (Colossians 2:18-19).
(4) DECLARATION OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN STATE.
(a)As dead with Christ, and so dead to all the vain and carnal ordinances, which have a show of wisdom but no reality (Colossians 2:20-23).
(b)As risen with Christ, and so bound to seek the things above, and have a life hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-4).]
(1) What great conflict.—The word is here repeated from the “striving” of the previous verse, which is, in the original, the cognate verb. It is the same word which is used in Philippians 1:30 (“conflict”), in 1 Thessalonians 2:2 (“contention”), in 1 Timothy 6:12, 2 Timothy 4:7 (“the good fight of faith”). Evidently it describes the intense earnestness of the whole struggle against evil which he was undergoing for them; but perhaps, looking at Colossians 4:12, we may refer it especially to “striving in prayer” for them. It is probably dwelt upon here to show why, although unknown to them personally, he yet writes so urgently to them.
And for them at Laodicea.—Comp. Colossians 4:13, “For you, and for them that are in Laodicea, and for them in Hierapolis.” These three cities lay near together in the valley of Lycus, a tributary of the Mæander; probably they were converted at one time, and are evidently regarded as forming one Christian community, for which Epaphras, the evangelist of Colossæ, felt himself responsible. Colossæ and Laodicea are actually directed to exchange the apostolic Letters sent to them (see Colossians 4:16, and Note there), and to read both alike in the churches. (See Dr. Lightfoot’s admirable description of “The Churches of the Lycus,” prefixed to his commentary on this Epistle.) Of Laodicea, the greatest and richest of the three cities, we have no further notice in Scripture, except that stern apocalyptic letter (Revelation 3:14-22), which has made its name proverbial for spiritual luke-warmness and presumptuous self-reliance. It has been noticed that in this Letter our Lord is called “the beginning of the creation of God.” (See Colossians 1:15-18 of this Epistle.) Of Colossæ and Hierapolis we read only in this Epistle. It is notable (see Dr. Lightfoot’s Essay) that while Hierapolis and Laodicea play a prominent part in the subsequent history of Christianity in Asia Minor, Colossæ never attains importance, and has left but “few and meagre” remains, compared with the magnificent ruins of the other cities.
As many as have not seen my face.—This description doubtless indicates Hierapolis; but the whole context shows that it also includes Colossæ. If the reading taken in Colossians 1:7 is correct, Epaphras had been commissioned by St. Paul, and thus, indirectly, the Apostle might be held to be the founder of Colossæ. Accordingly this Letter stands, so to speak, midway between the unreserved familiarity of the Epistles to Corinth or Philippi, and the more formal reserve of the Epistle to the Romans.
Knit together.—The word here used has two senses; first, “to bring, or knit, together” (as in Colossians 2:19, and Ephesians 4:16); next,” to carry with us” in argument—i.e., to “instruct,” or “convince” (as in Acts 9:22; Acts 16:10; 1 Corinthians 2:16). Either would give good sense here; but the usage in this and the Ephesian Epistle, and the addition of the words “in love,” are decisive for the former sense.
And unto . . . the full assurance of understanding (or, rather, intelligence, as in Colossians 1:9).—The idea of the passage is precisely that of Philippians 1:9, “I pray that your love may abound (or, overflow) more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment (or, perception).” St. Paul bids them seek the fulness of intelligence which they were taught to crave for, not through the rashness of speculation, but through the insight of love. So in Ephesians 3:17-19 he prays that “being rooted and grounded in love, they may know . . . that which passeth knowledge;” for Christian knowledge is the knowledge of a personal Saviour, and in all personal knowledge he knows best who loves best.
The acknowledgement . . .—This clause—which explains what the “fulness of intelligence” is—is altogether obscured in our version. It should be rendered, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God, which is Christ. Above we read (Colossians 1:27), “this mystery, which is Christ in you.” There Christ, as indwelling in man, is the mystery which alone solves the problem of humanity—what it is, and whither it tends. Here Christ is the “mystery of God”—i.e. (according to the Scriptural meaning of the word “mystery”), He in whom the inscrutable nature of God, rich in the “hidden treasure of wisdom and knowledge,” is revealed to us. The name again leads up to the doctrine of “the Word of God.”
Wisdom and knowledge.—Comp. Romans 11:33 and 1 Corinthians 12:8 (“the word of wisdom” . . . “the word of knowledge”). On the true sense of “wisdom” and its relation to other less perfect gifts, as “prudence,” “intelligence,” “knowledge,” see Note on Ephesians 1:8. “Knowledge” is clearly the development of wisdom in spiritual perception, as “intelligence” in testing and harmonising such perception, and “prudence” in making them, so tested, the guide of life. The word “knowledge” (gnosis) was the word which, certainly afterwards, probably even then, was the watchword of “Gnosticism”—the unbridled and fantastic spirit of metaphysical and religious speculation then beginning to infest all Christian thought. It can hardly be accidental that St. Paul here, as elsewhere, subordinates it to the higher gift of wisdom.
Your order, and the stedfastness.—The word “order” is used in 1 Corinthians 14:40; the word “stedfastness,” or solidity, is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, though the verb from which it is derived is found in Acts 3:7; Acts 3:16; Acts 16:5, and the original adjective, from which the verb is derived, in 1 Peter 5:9, “stedfast in the faith.” From the days of the ancient Greek interpreters downwards, it has been noted that both words have military associations—the one being used for discipline generally, and the other for the firm compact solidity of the phalanx; and (as in Ephesians 6:11-17) that the use of them may have been suggested by St. Paul’s captivity under military guard. If both words be referred to their “faith,” the Apostle obviously characterises it as having right “order” (or, harmony) in its various parts, and a strong “solidity” against all trials.
Abounding (or, overflowing) therein with thanksgiving.—The metaphor is changed. The cup of faith, filled to the full, runs over in that thanksgiving which is the expression both of faith and love.
(8) Spoil you.—Properly, lead you away as a spoil, triumph over you as a captive, and make you a slave. Comp. St. Paul’s language as to the older Judaism at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:20), “Ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.”
Philosophy and vain deceit—i.e. (like “the knowledge falsely so called” of 1 Timothy 6:20), a philosophy which is inseparably connected with vain deceit. The warning implied here seems to be two-fold:—(1) First, against considering Christianity primarily as a “philosophy,” i.e., a search for and knowledge of speculative truth, even the highest. That it involves philosophy is obvious, for it claims to solve for us the great problem of Being, in Nature, in Man, and in God. St. Paul, while he depreciates the wisdom of this world, dwells emphatically on the gospel as the “wisdom of God.” (See especially 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.) In this Epistle in particular he speaks of “wisdom” again and again (Colossians 1:9; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 3:16; Colossians 4:6) as one great characteristic of Christian life. Nor is it less clear (as the ancient Greek commentators here earnestly remind us) that Christianity finds a place and a blessing for all true philosophy of men, and makes it, as St. Paul made it at Athens, an introduction to the higher wisdom. But Christianity is not a philosophy, but a life—not a knowledge of abstract principles, but a personal knowledge of faith and love of God in Christ. (2) Next, against accepting in philosophy the “vain deceit” of mere speculation and imagination instead of the modest, laborious investigation of facts. This is the “knowledge falsely so called”; of this it may be said (as in 1 Corinthians 8:1) that it “puffs up,” and does not “build up.” In ancient and modern times it has always confused brilliant theory with solid discovery, delighting especially to dissolve the great facts of the gospel into abstractions, which may float in its cloudland of imagination.
After the tradition of men.—This is the keynote of our Lord’s condemnation of the old Pharisaic exclusiveness and formalism (Matthew 15:2-3; Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:8-9); it is equally the condemnation of the later Jewish, or half-Jewish, mysticism which St. Paul attacks here. It is hardly necessary to remark that the Apostle often claims reverence for “traditions” (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; see also 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Peter 2:21), but they are traditions having their starting point in direct revelation of God (Galatians 1:12), and, moreover, traditions freely given to all, as being His. The “traditions of men” here condemned had their origin in human speculation, and were secretly transmitted to the initiated only.
The rudiments of the world.—See Galatians 4:2, and Note there. This marks the chief point of contact with the earlier Judaism, in the stress still laid, perhaps with less consistency, on matters of ritual, law, ascetic observance, and the like. These are “of the world,” i.e., belonging to the visible sphere; and they are “rudiments,” fit only for the elementary education of those who are as children, and intended simply as preparation for a higher teaching.
On the meaning of “fullness” (plerorna), see Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 4:13. Here it is only necessary to add, that, as in the later Gnosticism, so probably in its earlier forms, the word was used for the infinite nature of the Supreme Deity, out of which all the emanations (afterwards called Æons) received in various degrees of imperfection, according to their capacity. Probably for that reason St. Paul uses it so emphatically here. In the same spirit, St. John declares (John 1:16), “Out of His (Christ’s) fulness have all we received.” It is not finite, but infinitely perfect; hence we all can draw from it, yet leave it unimpaired.
Principality and power.—See Colossians 1:16. His headship over all angelic natures is dwelt upon (as in Hebrews 1:1-14) with obvious reference to the worshipping of angels. They are our fellowservants under the same Head. (See Revelation 22:8-9.)
In putting off the body . . .—The words “of the sins” are not found in the best MSS. They are, no doubt, an explanatory gloss to soften the harshness of the phrase “the body of the flesh.” (1) What “the body of the flesh” is we see clearly by Colossians 3:9, “having put off the old man.” It is, like the “body of sin” (in Romans 6:6) and the “body of death” (in Romans 7:24), the body so far as it is, in the bad sense of the word “flesh,” fleshly. The body itself is not “put off:” for it is not evil; it is a part of the true man, and becomes the temple of God. It is only so far as in it the flesh rebels against the spirit, and the “old man is gradually corrupted by the lusts of deceit” (Ephesians 4:22), that it is to be “put off.” (2) But why the “body of the flesh,” and not the “flesh” simply? The answer is, no doubt, that which Chrysostom here gives, that the bodily circumcision was but of one member, in mere symbolism of one form of purity; the spiritual circumcision is the putting away of the whole of the power of the flesh, and that, too, not in symbol, but in reality.
This passage is also notable for the obvious contrast of baptism, as a spiritual reality, with circumcision as a symbolic form. Each is the entrance into a covenant with God; but the one into a covenant of “the letter,” and the other into a covenant of “the spirit.” (See the contrast between the covenants drawn out in 2 Corinthians 3:6-18; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:28.) In the earlier Epistles circumcision is contrasted with spiritual regeneration (Galatians 6:15), as shown by various signs, such as “faith working by love” (Romans 4:9-12; Galatians 5:6), or “keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Here this contrast is still as strong as ever; but baptism being (as always) looked upon as the means of such spiritual regeneration, is brought out emphatically as “the circumcision of the Spirit.” As baptised into Christ, “we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit” (Philippians 3:3).
Dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh.—See Ephesians 2:1, “You who were dead in trespasses and sins . . . who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh.” Here the “deadness” is spoken of, as coming both from the actual power of “sins” (transgressions), and from the alienation from God marked by uncircumcision. In the other passage the uncircumcision is looked upon only as a name of reproach.
Hath he quickened.—It is difficult to determine what is the subject in this sentence. According to all analogy it should be “God,” yet in the latter clauses (as in Colossians 2:14-15) it must surely be “Christ.” Now, when we turn to the fuller parallel passage, we see an overt change of subject. It is said (Ephesians 2:5), “God quickened us together with Christ”; “God in Christ forgave us” (Ephesians 4:32); but “Christ abolished the Law,” “reconciled us to God on the cross.” This suggests a similar change of subject here also, which must be at the words “and took it away,” or (for the tense here is changed) “and He (Christ) hath taken it away.” This, speaking grammatically, introduces an anomaly; but such anomalies are not uncommon in St. Paul, especially in passages of high spiritual teaching.
Having forgiven you . . .—There is no corresponding clause in the parallel passage; but in a different context (corresponding to Colossians 3:13 of this Epistle) we read, “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
And took it.—Properly, and He (Christ) hath taken it away. The change of tense is significant. The act of atonement is over; its effect remains.
Nailing it to his cross.—At this point the idea of atonement comes in. Hitherto we have heard simply of free forgiveness and love of God. Now the bond is viewed, not as cancelled by a simple act of divine mercy, but as absolutely destroyed by Christ, by “nailing it to His cross.” It has been supposed (as by Bishop Pearson) that there is allusion to some custom of cancelling documents by the striking of a nail through them. But the custom is doubtful, and the supposition unnecessary. Our Lord “redeemed us from the curse of the Law,” by His death, “being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). St. Paul boldly speaks of that curse as a penalty standing against us, and as nailed to the cross with Himself, so to be for ever cancelled in the great declaration, “It is finished.” If any more definite allusion is to be sought for, we might be inclined to refer to the “title” on the cross, probably nailed to it. Such title declared the explanation of the sufferer’s death. The cancelled curse of the Law was just such an explanation of the great atoning death, and the title, declaring His mediatorial kingdom, showed the curse cancelled thereby.
“How of the Cross He made a throne
On which He reigns, a glorious king.”
His forgiveness of the penitent thief was the first act of His all-saving royalty. Accordingly, taking (as in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16) his metaphor from a Roman triumph, St. Paul represents Him as passing in triumphal majesty up the sacred way to the eternal gates, with all the powers of evil bound as captives behind His chariot before the eyes of men and angels. It is to be noted that to this clause, so characteristic of the constant dwelling on the sole glory of Christ in this Epistle, there is nothing to correspond in the parallel passage of the Epistle to the Ephesians, which dwells simply on Christ as “our peace,” and as the head of the Church.
The difficulty lies in the word here translated “having spoiled.” Now this translation (as old as St. Jerome’s Vulgate), makes all simple and easy; but the original word certainly means “having stripped Himself”—as in Colossians 3:9, “having put off (stripped off from ourselves) the old man.” It is a word used by St. Paul alone in the New Testament, and by him only in these two passages, the latter of which makes the sense perfectly clear. Being forced, then, to adopt this translation, we see that the words admit of two renderings. (1) First, “having stripped from Himself the principalities and powers,” that is, having stripped off that condition of the earthly life which gave them a grasp or occasion against Him. But this, though adopted by many old Greek commentators (Chrysostom among the rest), seems singularly harsh in expression and far-fetched in idea, needing too much explanation to make it in any sense clear. (2) Next, “having unclothed Himself, He made a show of principalities and powers.” On the whole this rendering, although not free from difficulty, on account of the apparent want of connection of the phrase “having stripped Himself” with the context, seems the easiest. For we note that a cognate word, strictly analogous, is used thus (without an object following) in 2 Corinthians 5:4, “Not that we desire to unclothe ourselves, but to clothe ourselves over our earthly vesture.” The context shows that the meaning there is “to put off the flesh.” This is suggested still more naturally in the passage before us by the preceding phrase, “in the putting off of the body of the flesh”—a phrase there used of the flesh as evil, but found in Colossians 1:22 of the natural body of Christ. Accordingly many Latin fathers (among others Augustine) rendered “stripping Himself of the flesh,” and there is some trace of this as a reading or a gloss in the Greek of this passage. Perhaps, however, St. Paul purposely omitted the object after the verb, in order to show that it was by “stripping Himself of all” that He conquered by becoming a show in absolute humiliation, He made the powers of evil a show in His triumph.
(16) Let no man therefore judge you.—That is, impose his own laws upon you. See Colossians 2:8. (Comp. Romans 14:3; Romans 14:10, “Why dost thou judge thy brother?” in this same connection.)
In meat, or in drink.—Or rather, in eating and drinking. We see by the context that the immediate reference is to the distinctions of meats under the Jewish law, now done away, because the distinction of those within and without the covenant was also done away (Acts 10:11). (Comp. on this subject the half-ironical description of Hebrews 9:10.) But a study of Romans 14:2; Romans 14:20-21, written before this Epistle, and 1 Timothy 4:3, written after it—to say nothing of the tone of this passage itself, or of the known characteristics of the later Gnosticism of the ascetic type—show that these laws about eating and drinking were not mere matters of law, but formed significant parts of a rigid mystic asceticism. Of such, St. Paul declares indignantly (Romans 14:17), “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
An holyday (feast), or of the new moon, or of the sabbath.—Comp. Isaiah 1:13-14, “the new moons and sabbaths . . . the new moons and the appointed feasts My soul hateth;” also Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:13. The “feast” would seem to be one of the great festivals; the “new moon” the monthly, and the sabbath the weekly solemnity. With this passage it is natural to compare the similar passage in Galatians 4:10, “Ye observe days and months and times (special seasons) and years.” But there the specially Judaic character is not so expressly marked; and, in fact, the passage has a wider meaning (like Rom. 14:56), showing the different position which even Christian festivals held in Apostolic days. Here it is the Jewish festivals, and they alone, which are noted. It is obvious that St. Paul gives no hint of any succession of the Lord’s Day to be, in any strict sense, a “Christian Sabbath.” We know, indeed, that the Jewish Sabbath itself lingered in the Church, as having a kind of sacredness, kept sometimes as a fast, sometimes as a festival. But its observance was not of obligation. No man was to “judge” others in respect of it.
In a voluntary humility and worship.—This rendering seems virtually correct, though other renderings are proposed. The original is, willing in humility and worship, and the phrase “willing in” is often used in the LXX. for “delighting in.” Other translations are here possible, though not without some harshness. But the true sense is shown beyond all doubt to be that given in our version, by the words used below to describe the same process, “will-worship and humility.”
In this passage alone in the New Testament “humility “is spoken of with something of the condemnation accorded to it in heathen morality. The reason of this is obvious and instructive. Humility is a grace, of which the very essence is unconsciousness, and which, being itself negative, cannot live, except by resting on some more positive quality, such as faith or love. Whenever it is consciously cultivated and “delighted in, ”it loses all its grace; it becomes either unreal, “the pride that apes humility,” or it turns to abject slavishness and meanness. Of such depravations Church history is unhappily full.
Worshipping of angels.—This is closely connected with the “voluntary humility” above. The link of connection is supplied by the notice in the ancient interpreters, of the early growth of that unhappy idea, which has always lain at the root of saint-worship and angel-worship in the Church—“that we must be brought near by angels and not by Christ, for that were too high a thing for us” (Chrysostom). With this passage it is obvious to connect the emphasis laid (in Hebrews 1, 2) on the absolute superiority of our Lord to all angels, who are but “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation;” and the prohibition of angel-worship in Revelation 22:9, “See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow-servant . . . worship God.”
It might seem strange that on the rigid monotheism of Judaism this incongruous creature-worship should have been engrafted. But here also the link is easily supplied. The worship of the angels of which the Essenic system bore traces, was excused on the ground that the Law had been given through the “ministration of angels” (see Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19), and that the tutelary guardianship of angels had been revealed in the later prophecy. (See Daniel 10:10-21.) For this reason it was held that angels might be worshipped, probably with the same subtle distinctions between this and that kind of worship with which we are familiar in the ordinary pleas for the veneration of saints. It has been noticed that in the Council of Laodicea, held in the fourth century, several canons were passed against Judaising, and that in close connection with these it was forbidden “to leave the Church of God and go away to invoke angels”; and we are told by Theodoret (in the next century) that “oratories to St. Michael (the ‘prince’ of the Jewish people) were still to be seen.” The “angels” in this half-Jewish system held the same intermediate position between the Divine and the human which in the ordinary Gnostic theories was held by the less personal Æons, or supposed emanations from the Godhead.
Intruding into those things which he hath not seen.—(1) There is a remarkable division here, both of MSS. and ancient versions and commentators, as to the insertion or omission of the negative. But the balance of MS. authority is against the negative, and certainly it is easier to suppose it to have been inserted with a view to make an easier sense, than to have been omitted if it had been originally there. (2) The general meaning, however, of the passage is tolerably clear, and, curiously enough, little affected by either alternative. It certainly refers to pretensions to supernatural knowledge by which (just as in 1 Corinthians 8:1) the mind is said to be “puffed up.” We note that, even in true visions of heavenly things, there was danger lest the mind “should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Now the knowledge here pretended to is that favourite knowledge, claimed by Jewish and Christian mystics, of the secrets of the heavenly places and especially of the grades and functions of the hierarchy of heaven. St. Paul brands it as belonging to the mind, not of the spirit, but “of the flesh;” for indeed it was really superstitions, resting not on faith, but on supposed visions and supernatural manifestations. It “intruded” (or, according to another rendering, it “took its stand”) upon the secrets of a region which it said that it “had seen,” but which, in truth, it “had not seen.” If we omit the negative, the Apostle is quoting its claims; if we insert it, he is denying their justice.
From which all the body . . .—Comp Ephesians 4:15-16, and see Note there. The agreement is nearly verbal, but the characteristic difference of idea, so often noted, is still traceable. There the body “maketh increase unto the building up of itself in love;” here the increase is simply “the increase of God”—the increase which God gives, and which grows into His likeness. In this passage there is also a greater scientific exactness: the “joints and bands” are the “articulations and ligaments;” the two functions thereof are the diffusion of nourishment and the knitting together of organic unity.
(20) If ye be dead with Christ.—The whole idea of the death with Christ and resurrection with Him is summed up by St. Paul in Romans 6:3-9, in direct connection (as also here, see Colossians 2:12) with the entrance upon Christian life in baptism, “We are buried with Him by baptism unto death . . . we are dead with Christ . . . we are planted together in the likeness of His death . . . that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life . . . planted together in the likeness of His resurrection . . . alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The death with Christ is a death unto “the life of the flesh.” But this may be (as in Romans 6:1-2; Romans 6:6-7; Romans 6:11) “the life of sin”; or it may be the outward and visible life “of the world.” The latter is the sense to be taken here. This outward life is under “ordinances” (see Colossians 2:1), under the “rudiments of the world” (see Colossians 2:8), or, generally, “under law.” Of such a life St. Paul says (in Galatians 2:19), “I through the Law died to the Law, that I might live unto God.” There (Galatians 4:9), as here, he brands as unspiritual the subjection to the “weak and beggarly elements” of mere ordinances. Of course it is clear that in their place such ordinances have their value, both as means to an end, and as symbols of an inner reality of self-devotion. The true teaching as to these is found in our Lord’s declaration to the Pharisees as to spiritual things and outward ordinances, “These things (the spiritual things) ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others (the outward observances) undone” (Matthew 23:23). In later times St. Paul declared with Judicial calmness, “The Law is good if a man use it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8). But to exalt these things to the first place was a fatal superstition, which, both in its earlier and later phases, he denounces unsparingly.
After the commandments . . .—See Colossians 2:8, and Note there. There seems to be an allusion to Isaiah 29:13, quoted by our Lord (Matthew 15:7-8; Mark 7:6-7) in relation to these ceremonial observances.
Which things . . . flesh.—This passage is difficult. (1) Our version translates literally, and would seem to regard the last words as simply an explanation, from the point of view of the false teachers, of “neglecting of the body,” as “not honouring it for the satisfaction, or surfeiting of the flesh;” and we certainly find that the Jewish ascetics did brand the most necessary satisfaction of appetite as a “surfeiting of the flesh.” But there is a fatal objection to this interpretation—that, in that case, St. Paul would leave the false pretension without a word of contradiction, which is almost incredible. Hence (2) we must regard the “not in any honour” as antithetical to “the show of wisdom.” The ordinances, says St. Paul, have “a show of wisdom,” but “are in no honour,” i.e., are “of no value.” The common use of the word rendered “honour,” for “price,” or “pay” (see Matthew 27:6; Acts 7:16; Acts 19:19; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 1 Timothy 5:17), would readily lend itself to this sense. The only doubtful point (3) is the interpretation of the last words, “for the satisfying of the flesh.” There seems little doubt that the phrase is used in a bad sense. Hence we must dismiss all reference to a right honouring of the body by innocent satisfaction of its needs. We have therefore to choose between two interpretations. Some interpret “of no value against the satisfaction of the flesh.” But, though the Greek will bear this sense, it is certainly not the common sense of the preposition used; and its adoption would expose the whole phrase to the charge of ambiguity and obscurity. The other interpretation is “of no real value” (tending) “to the satisfaction of the flesh.” This is abrupt, but suits well the indignant and abrupt terseness of the passage. It gives (quite after St. Paul’s manner) not only a denial of the “neglecting of the body,” but a retort on the false teachers of the very charge they made against their opponents. (Comp. the use of the word “dogs,” in Philippians 3:2.) It conveys a most important truth. That “extremes meet” we know well; and that there is a satisfaction of the fleshly temper (see above, Colossians 2:18) in the attempt over much to curb the flesh, the whole history of asceticism bears witness. Moreover, this interpretation alone gives a completeness of antithesis. To “the show of wisdom” it opposes the “no real value;” to the pretended “neglecting of the body” the real” satisfaction of the flesh.”