Matthew Henry on Colossians 2.16-23

Matthew Henry on Colossians Chapter 2 Verses 16-23

“The apostle concludes the chapter with exhortations to proper duty, which he infers from the foregoing discourse.

I. Here is a caution to take heed of judaizing teachers, or those who would impose upon Christians the yoke of the ceremonial law: Let no man therefore judge you in meat nor drink, etc., v. 16. Much of the ceremonies of the law of Moses consisted in the distinction of meats and days. It appears by Rom. 14 that there were those who were for keeping up those distinctions: but here the apostle shows that since Christ has come, and has cancelled the ceremonial law, we ought not to keep it up. “Let no man impose those things upon you, for God has not imposed them: if God has made you free, be not you again entangled in that yoke of bondage.” And this the rather because these things were shadows of things to come (v. 17), intimating that they had no intrinsic worth in them and that they are now done away. But the body is of Christ: the body, of which they were shadows, has come; and to continue the ceremonial observances, which were only types and shadows of Christ and the gospel, carries an intimation that Christ has not yet come and the gospel state has not yet commenced. Observe the advantages we have under the gospel, above what they had under the law: they had the shadows, we have the substance.

II. He cautions them to take heed of those who would introduce the worship of angels as mediators between God and them, as the Gentile philosophers did: Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, v. 18. It looked like a piece of modesty to make use of the mediation of angels, as conscious to ourselves of our unworthiness to speak immediately to God; but, though it has a show of humility, it is a voluntary, not a commanded humility; and therefore it is not acceptable, yea, it is not warrantable: it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only and giving it to a creature. Besides, the notions upon which this practice was grounded were merely the inventions of men and not by divine revelation,—the proud conceits of human reason, which make a man presume to dive into things, and determine them, without sufficient knowledge and warrant: Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind—pretending to describe the order of angels, and their respective ministries, which God has hidden from us; and therefore, though there was a show of humility in the practice, there was a real pride in the principle. They advanced those notions to gratify their own carnal fancy, and were fond of being thought wiser than other people. Pride is at the bottom of a great many errors and corruptions, and even of many evil practices, which have great show and appearance of humility. Those who do so do not hold the head, v. 19. They do in effect disclaim Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. It is the highest disparagement to Christ, who is the head of the church, for any of the members of it to make use of any intercessors with God but him. When men let go their hold of Christ, they catch at that which is next them and will stand them in no stead.—From which all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Observe, 1. Jesus Christ is not only a head of government over the church, but a head of vital influence to it. They are knit to him by joints and bands, as the several members of the body are united to the head, and receive life and nourishment from him. 2. The body of Christ is a growing body: it increaseth with the increase of God. The new man is increasing, and the nature of grace is to grow, where there is not an accidental hindrance.—With the increase of God, with an increase of grace which is from God as its author; or, in a usual Hebraism, with a large and abundant increase.—That you may be filled with all the fulness of God, Eph. 3:19. See a parallel expression, Which is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together, maketh increase of the body, Eph. 4:15, 16.

III. He takes occasion hence to warn them again: “Wherefore, if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances? v. 20. If as Christians you are dead to the observances of the ceremonial law, why are you subject to them? Such observances as, Touch not, taste not, handle not,” v. 21, 22. Under the law there was a ceremonial pollution contracted by touching a dead body, or any thing offered to an idol; or by tasting any forbidden meats, etc., which all are to perish with the using, having no intrinsic worth in themselves to support them, and those who used them saw them perishing and passing away; or, which tend to corrupt the Christian faith, having no other authority than the traditions and injunctions of men.— Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility. They thought themselves wiser than their neighbours, in observing the law of Moses together with the gospel of Christ, that they might be sure in the one, at least, to be in the right; but, alas! it was but a show of wisdom, a mere invention and pretence. So they seem to neglect the body, by abstaining from such and such meats, and mortifying their bodily pleasures and appetites; but there is nothing of true devotion in these things, for the gospel teaches us to worship God in spirit and truth and not by ritual observances, and through the mediation of Christ alone and not of any angels. Observe, 1. Christians are freed by Christ from the ritual observances of Moses’s law, and delivered from that yoke of bondage which God himself had laid upon them. 2. Subjection to ordinances, or human appointments in the worship of God, is highly blamable, and contrary to the freedom and liberty of the gospel. The apostle requires Christians to stand fast in the liberty with which Christ hath made them free, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage, Gal. 5:1. And the imposition of them is invading the authority of Christ, the head of the church, and introducing another law of commandments contained in ordinances, when Christ has abolished the old one, Eph. 2:15. 3. Such things have only a show of wisdom, but are really folly. It is true wisdom to keep close to the appointments of the gospel, and an entire subjection to Christ, the only head of the church.”