6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; 12when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
13And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, 14erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.
Here the “therefore” refers to the clauses of the same sentence, unusual for Paul – you can see it here if you just rearrange the clauses, “As (since or because) you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, therefore, continue to live your lives in him.” Paul had already referenced what having received Christ had meant to the people in the church at Colossae. But the gift of grace they have received is not the end of their faith, but the beginning – remember the “therefore”! But how does one continue to live a life in him? Paul tells the Colossians they must be rooted in Christ – in Ephesians he speaks of being rooted and established in love – same thing – for to be rooted in Christ is to be rooted in love. And they must be established in the faith they were taught, and grateful. Gratitude is key to living a joyful and faithful life!
They should not be taken captive through philosophy and deceit, according to human tradition. This passage is another of those which has been repeatedly taken out of context over the years, and actually used to denounce education, especially the study of philosophy. Can you guess that I am about to tell you that is not what Paul is saying here? Actually, Paul is getting to the heart of why he is writing. Someone has come to the church at Colossae with a new teaching (any system of beliefs was called a philosophy), something involving new moon festivals and elemental spirits of the universe, that some are trying to add to their belief system, sort of like a “New Age” belief that in the seventies took bits of everything and put them together, focused through crystals, and other elemental spiritual forces. Paul says if the people of the church at Colossae are standing firm in Christ, they will not be susceptible to such false teachings (any teaching was called a “philosophy” in those days), which are not from Christ, but are of human origins.
For in Christ the whole fullness of God dwells – they don’t need those other philosophies. Apparently, the false teaching also includes circumcision, for Paul says theirs is a spiritual circumcision. When they were dead in their former lives, God made them alive, through grace, in their baptism, which is their spiritual circumcision. Our sins he set aside, nailing them to the cross. This is a vivid image which illustrates how Christ’s gift of grace gave us the freedom of forgiveness. And when this record of our sins has been set aside – the rulers and authorities, whatever spiritual powers there may be that stand for darkness, were defeated, even made a public example in their defeat, for Christ triumphed, even over death.