SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Paul writes and warns about philosophies that don’t depend on Jesus. Paul tells his readers to make sure they aren’t taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy. He explains that philosophies which are based on human tradition and thinking (the basic principles of this world) can be opposed to a philosophy and way of thinking that is truly based on Jesus.
- Paul also writes about circumcision. In the past, circumcision was given as a sign of a relationship with God. Paul explains that this is no longer necessary, and that the true "circumcision" (which is necessary) is not physical, but performed by Jesus when He forgave our sins and made us spiritually alive.
- Paul connects Jesus' work in our life with us being "buried with him in baptism" (vs 12).
- In verse nine Paul says that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lived in bodily form.” This means exactly what it sounds like: Jesus was fully God. But, while on earth, He was fully human as well as God. It's a great mystery, but it's the way it had to be. Only God can live a perfect life and only the sacrifice of a perfect human life can take away our sin. And Jesus was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.
- Starting in verse 16, Paul addresses Christians following the rules of this world: self-imposed worship, false humility and harsh treatment of the body. Paul says that these things lack any value in actually restraining wrong behavior.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- We must base our lives and our thinking on Jesus and what He taught, rather than what seems right to us, or what we've been taught, or what most people believe.
- Paul writes that harsh self-discipline based on human teaching is powerless to control our behavior. Why? Well, though they seem to be honorable, the focus is on self, and often on other's acceptance and our outward appearance, and so the focus is typically not on God, and neglects the condition of our heart. Christians are not to do self-imposed self-help, but are to go to God to receive a new heart, that will lead us to new behavior, and for daily strength.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- What philosophies do you live by? How can you expose what principles they are based on? Paul said that he takes every thought captive and makes it obedient to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5). It is vitally important that each and every Christ-follower scrutinize the philosophies they live by to make sure they are built on Jesus. An honest pursuit of Jesus and the Truth will make us wiser and more like that which we pursue.
- Is your strategy for improvement based on a self-imposed self-disciplined form of self-help? Or do you realize that you can't really help yourself, and so instead you need to turn to and rely moment-by-moment on God? Talk to God about your approach and see if maybe there's a better way.