Paul continues to describe our freedom; not only because of what Christ is, but also that He gives us freedom from condemnation of self-righteous individuals. Here he addresses the subject of circumcision which was a contention between Judaizers (Jews who were converts and formed the early Church in Jerusalem) who taught that Gentiles could not become Christians unless they first became a Jew which included circumcision; and Paul emphatically opposed this teaching in his ministry.
The direction for circumcision was originally given to Abraham when God said “I am God Almighty…..I will confirm my covenant between me and you…” <Gen.17:1-2 (NIV)>; God continued to indicate that this covenant was to include all of Abraham’s descendants <Gen.17:10>. Circumcision signified that the infant was being accepted into the covenant community, and that an uncircumcised person was considered to be heathen and would be “cut-off” from the covenant community by divine judgment <Gen. 17:1-14>; and this practice has been faithfully observed by the Jewish community to the present day. God further expressed through Moses the real meaning of circumcision; “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways” <Deut.10:12 (NIV)> observing all His Laws and Decrees, and clarifying what circumcision really implied: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” <Deut 10:16 (NIV)>. The physical act of circumcision was to be followed by the spiritual act of observing God’s divine Laws, and the physical act was annulled by Christ’ death and resurrection, as far as our salvation is concerned.
“In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ” <2:11 (NIV)>. Paul teaches here that the Christian believer has been circumcised in Christ through our salvation “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” <2:12 (NIV)>; making our need of physical circumcision for our salvation null and void. Our salvation and subsequent confession of Christ in our baptism is the evidence that our hearts have been circumcised as we seek to follow Christ and be obedient to His commands. “You, who were spiritually dead because of your sins and your uncircumcision (i.e. the fact that you were outside the Law), God has now made to share in the very life of Christ” <2:13 (J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English)>; we who were condemned by the Law because we were not circumcised <cf Gen.17:14> have been fully pardoned from that Law by Christ’s substitutionary work on the cross. He forgave all our sins by cancelling the written Law which condemned us by “nailing it to the cross”; “Christ has utterly wiped out the damning evidence of broken laws and commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it over his own head on the cross” <2:14 (J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English)>
Paul now concludes this section stating what Christ has done for us; that as a result of His death Satan and his demons were “disarmed” and do not have the power to force believers to follow false teaching about Christ, but we should be cautious and trust the Holy Spirit to help us <2:14-15; see Eph.6:12>. Paul further states, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” <2:16 (NIV)>, indicating our total freedom from the judgment of those who would cause confusion and concern to our faith in Christ: reminding us that “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” <2:17 (NIV); cf Heb.8:5; 10:1>.
(d). Freedom from Improper Worship <2:18-19>
Therefore, we should not allow anyone that delights in false humility and the worship of angels to exclude us from our fellowship with Christ by denying the reality of our salvation. Such teachers are inflated by worldly imagination and are approaching issues that they do not, or cannot understand, since through their worldly minds they are not honouring “The Head”, who is Christ. The whole body, or Church, is supported and held together and grows as God causes it to grow.
The apparent error in the Colossian Church was a faulty understanding of Christ in that He was less than Deity <cf 2:9; 1:19>, and Paul has to correct them by showing that Christ is God, and that they should not allow false teachers to influence them. True worship can only be centred on the fact that Christ is God <cf Jn.1:1; 4:23-24; 14:6-10; 8:14-16>.
(e). Freedom from the Doctrine of Men <2:20-23>
It is clear that false teachers were underlining the observance of holy days, the worship of angels and demanding self-denial <see 2:16, 18, 21>; so Paul has to show that they are erroneous, ineffective, and inappropriate, as a means for our salvation by questioning their reasoning; “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules” <2:20 (NIV); Gal.2:20; Rom.6:4-6; cf Gal.4:8-10>. He states that these are all destined to perish <2:21> because they are all based on human reasoning and directions; “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” <2:23 (NIV)>. Such are the teachings of these people which will always be useless since they are based on human efforts. They will fail, for it is a fact that with such there is no restraining physical indulgences.
So then Paul emphasizes that we should not be enslaved by doctrines taught by false teachers, we should check and compare all doctrine with what the scriptures teach.