Colossians 2:8

Spiritually Robbed and Enslaved


Beware of Being Robbed and Enslaved (Spoiled)

1. Paul WARNS the Colossian believers about becoming “spoiled.”

2. Spoiled: the term occurs only here in the New Testament.

a. It does not mean to corrupt or to ruin as the English term implies.

b. Strong’s: to take away; to carry off booty. 1ato carry one off as a captive (and slave).

c. Dictionary of Bible Languages: take control of, take captive, carry off as booty.

d. Zodhiates: figuratively: of the destructive effects of false teachers who rob believers of their complete riches available in Christ.

e. Figuratively: to lead away from the truth and subject to one’s sway

f. Two related shades meanings:
• To rob (take away goods as booty or spoil)
• To enslave (take away people as captives; slaves)

g. BOTH of these related meanings make perfect sense in this context; both are true and perhaps BOTH are implied by Paul.
• The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. It is not necessarily an either/or interpretation.
• When the conquering army defeated their foe, they did BOTH.
• They robbed the defeated army of their goods AND took the survivors as captives… slaves.

h. The EFFECTS of the false teachers would spoil the believers in two ways.
• Their false teachings could ROB the believers of their liberty in Christ… rob them of their enjoyment and experience of their riches which belong to us in our position in heavenly places in Christ…
• And at the same time, their false teachings would ENSLAVE them to false teachings.
i. There is some overlapping between these two shades of meaning.
• The one who is taken away as a captive… enslaved… is at the same time robbed of what he formerly possessed and enjoyed.
• But the MAIN emphasis seems to be on CAPTIVATING the Colossians…

3. Hence, the WARNING from Paul to the Colossians: BEWARE!

a. Beware: blepw = to see; to look; to discern; to direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine.

b. The Colossians were to beware lest they be SPOILED – robbed or led away captive and enslaved to the false philosophy and mysticism of the Gnostic-like cult that was attacking them.

c. Look out! Keep your eyes open for this! Watch out! This could happen to you! It is an ever present danger.

d. Beware = present active imperative: this is a COMMAND… and one that we are to be CONTINUALLY observing… continually watching out for this.

e. Lightfoot noted that this term expresses the imminence of the peril…

f. And while the exact FORM of false teachings may vary from time to time and place to place, the reality of a similar attack is an imminent danger for us today too.

4. Our enemy is engaged in a battle for the minds, hearts and allegiance of God’s people.

a. Satan seeks to devour us spiritually by ROBBING us of our riches in Christ… and ENSLAVING us to wrong thinking… false doctrine… which results in false practice.

b. This battle for the minds, hearts, and allegiance of God’s people is really a battle between Satan and Christ.

c. Satan seeks to be LIKE the Most High God.
• He seeks worship.
• He seeks allegiance.
• He seeks to be lord… master.
• He seeks to be god… and replace the True and Living God.

d. Matt. 6:19-24 – And Christ seeks for us to submit to Him as Lord and Master. We can only have ONE master. We are to be SINGLE minded. ONE treasure. ONE heart.
• The battle is between Christ and everything else as our Master: earthly treasures; mammon.
• If Satan is successful, we are ROBBED:
» Of our fellowship with Christ…
» Of the joy of abiding in Him…
» Of the fruit that results from that relationship…
» Of the answered prayer
» Of enjoying our riches in Christ…
» Of the filling and power of the Spirit in our lives
» Of the illumination and leading of the Spirit
» Of the power of God enabling us to walk in newness of life…

• If Satan is successful, we are ENSLAVED:
» To his purposes…
» To an earthly world view…
» To the lusts and will of the flesh
» To the darkness of this world
» To the vanity of life under the sun
» To self… to a vain manner of life…

5. There is an ever present danger that any one of us could be ROBBED and ENSLAVED by our adversary… hence BEWARE!

Robbed and Enslaved through Philosophy

1. Paul writes to warn the Colossian believers that they were surrounded by enemies who sought to attack them and rob them of their riches… and carry them away as captives.

a. But this enemy was not going to attack them with swords, spears, and battle axes.

b. They would not invade the city on chariots. There would be no blockade or siege of the city of Colossae.

c. They would not be physically attacked with violence.

d. Instead, this enemy would attack them quietly, stealthily, and subtly with PHILOSOPHY and vain deceit.

e. This enemy would not attempt to pierce their armor with a sword, but would attempt to pierce into their mind with a lie… a beautiful, beguiling lie… embedded in enticing words… but a lie nonetheless.

f. The pen is more powerful than the sword. The false teachers were attempting to use the pen and their golden tongues to SPOIL the Colossians… rob them of their riches and enslave them to their way of thinking.

2. Certainly there is nothing inherently wrong with philosophy.

a. Philosophy is the love of wisdom… the pursuit of wisdom.

b. Philosophy deals with the subject of life, the world, its meaning, and its purpose.

c. Prov. 4:5-8 – Seeking this kind of wisdom is a valuable and worthwhile pursuit.
• In fact, the Bible COMMANDS us to seek wisdom…
• Vs. 6 – We are to LOVE wisdom (that is what philosophy means!)
• Vs. 6 – the right kind of wisdom will PRESERVE and keep you safe spiritually!
• Vs. 7 – We are to GET wisdom (pursue it)—that too is a good definition of philosophy: the pursuit of wisdom.
• Philosophy (as the love and pursuit of wisdom) is good, profitable, and will yield rewards in this life and in the life to come!

d. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. What could be more Biblical than that?
• In that sense, Paul himself was a philosopher!
• In his writings, Paul often deals with the subject of life and its meaning and purpose.
• There is such a thing as a Christian world view… the Christian philosophy of life…
• The Christian world view… Christian philosophy is based upon eternal TRUTH… the Word of God.
• There is nothing inherently wrong with Biblical philosophy… the love of wisdom.

3. However, there IS something inherently wrong with other philosophies.

a. Pure philosophy (the love of wisdom) is good. However, human reasoning and human philosophies are extremely limited.

b. Many truths are (by their very nature) BEYOND the realm of human reasoning. (creation; salvation; a worthy walk)

c. Philosophies NOT based on the truth of God’s Word are vain.

d. They are the empty speculations of the Satanically blinded minds of men which are darkened because of the ignorance that is in them because of the hardness of their heart…

e. Some men have gone to great universities to major in philosophy—to study the speculations of men concerning life, the world, and its meaning.

f. There is some value in the academic pursuit of obtaining knowledge… in learning about the thoughts of men throughout the ages.

g. But to study philosophy in order to DISCOVER the meaning of life is vain… an empty pursuit… that leads only to deception… vain deceit.

h. Those philosophers will spend their days “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

i. Unless, of course, one comes in contact with the Christian philosophy of life: that men are creatures who have received life from the Creator—and the purpose of life is to bring glory to Him.

j. There are in fact only TWO distinct philosophies: the Christian philosophy of life — and all others. God’s truth and man’s conflicting and contradictory views.

k. I Cor. 1:20-21 – the world loves its wisdom… the world has its philosophers… but it hates Christ and His truth.
• The wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.
• This is wisdom where human reasoning is exalted… and divine revelation is rejected.
• The world by its wisdom knew not God.
• They dazzle one another with their brilliant arguments, but it is empty… and they will never come to the knowledge of the truth, the gospel, or a saving knowledge of God.

4. THE philosophy

a. The term philosophy has a definite article before it which indicates a PARTICULAR philosophy.

b. In this context, Paul is not attacking philosophy in general, but he has in mind the philosophy of the false teachers.

c. Their philosophy was VAIN deceit.

d. Their philosophy was based upon the speculation of spiritually blind, fallen men who have rejected the light of God’s Word.

e. Philosophy has value only IF its source is the TRUTH. When it arises from another source, it is not only not valuable, it is outright dangerous!

f. 2:4 – the philosophical teachings of the false teachers in Colossae were dangerous in that they were beguiling and couched in enticing words… designed to lure away the simple.

g. There was a PARTICULAR philosophy that Paul wanted to warn the Colossians about: the philosophy of the false teachers!

h. The first of a series of attacks in this section of the book, Paul attacks INTELLECTUALISM… human reasoning… the wisdom of men. (later in the chapter he attacks ritualism, legalism, mysticism, and asceticism)

5. This particular philosophy Paul described as VAIN DECEIT.

a. Deceit: deception; trickery; illusion; fraud.

b. Vain: lit = “without something” — empty; devoid of truth; without result; without effect; without purpose.

c. AND = Kenneth Wuest noted that “and” (kai) is best translated “even” here… which equates the philosophy with vain deceit.
• Vain deceit here is NOT something separate from the philosophy. It is a description of that philosophy.
• The particular kind of philosophy about which Paul warns the Colossians is the kind that is vain: devoid of truth.

d. Vain deceit:
• Trying to discover the origin of the universe without acknowledging the Creator.
• Trying to discover how to be saved apart from divine revelation.
• Trying to discover how to live the Christian life without acknowledging the existence of sin or the Savior.
• Trying to discover the purpose of life under the sun—all is vain deceit… emptiness… hollow speculation.

6. Paul states here that the believers needed to BEWARE because the false teachers were skilled at capturing and enslaving Christians through philosophy… which amounts to nothing more than empty deception.

a. HOW could that be? How can true believers be robbed and captured by the enemy?

b. Paul warned them because it was a very real possibility. Not that they would lose their salvation… but they could fall from their steadfastness… and be led astray.

c. If so, it would be BECAUSE they were not established in THE faith. (vs. 7)

d. They have not studied THE faith… not spent time in God’s Word… and when a counterfeit arises, they are not able to distinguish between the two.

e. They have not experienced Christ in their lives… because they were not practicing THE faith… putting doctrine into practice in daily living.

f. Believers who ARE established (confirmed; settled; stable) in the faith are not going to be taken in by a man made philosophy… but ignorant and/or poorly taught believers… or believers who were taught well but didn’t listen… CAN be taken in!

Robbed and Enslaved through the Traditions of Men

Introduction: Here Paul uses three prepositional phrases to describe in more detail the empty philosophies just described. The philosophies of the false teachers were: (1) according to the traditions of men and

(2) according to the rudiments of the world and (3) not after Christ.

1. Tradition defined:

a. Strong’s: giving up, giving over, by word of mouth or in writing, i.e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept.

b. A handing down; passing on; that which is transmitted; often orally.

c. The term is used of the transmission of legends, teachings, doctrines, and traditions.

d. The Greek word behind the English term “tradition” speaks of the means of transmission rather than the content of that which is transmitted.

2. The usage of the term in the New Testament in a good sense.

a. II Thess. 2:15 – same word for traditions.
• Paul commanded the Thessalonians to HOLD the traditions. (hold = hold fast; don’t let go!)
• By word: Some of them were oral (passed down from the apostles preaching and teaching)
• Epistle: Some were written and passed on to the various churches… and passed on to us today!
• These traditions (teachings handed down orally or by epistle) are GOOD.

b. II Thess. 3:6 – same term
• These traditions were passed on from the apostles to the believers in Thessalonica.
• The believers were expected to RECEIVE the traditions (truth passed down…) and to WALK AFTER them. (practice them)
• Those who did NOT keep them were to be excommunicated… separated from… no fellowship… because NOT keeping these traditions was sin.

c. Tradition is not an evil thing. It can be GOOD and the term was used predominantly in a positive sense in the epistles.
• The concept of a tradition itself is quite neutral.
• It depends upon WHAT IT IS that is being passed down… handed on to the next generation.
• The apostles handed down SOUND DOCTRINE (teaching; truth).
• It was handed down orally before the Scriptures were completed.
• The truths the apostles taught were passed on to others until they were recorded in Scripture and then passed on in written form.
• These teachings were TRUTH revealed from God… and when recorded as Scripture, they became INSPIRED revelation.
• Today we have a copy of these truths handed down from God… to the apostles and prophets… to us by means of oral communication… then recorded in our inspired Bibles.
• Thank God for that kind of tradition! These were the traditions of GOD… handed down from God to us.

3. Traditions are also used in an EVIL sense in the Bible.

a. The term is used in an evil sense in the gospels.
• Mark 7:3 – tradition of the elders.
• Mark 7:5 – tradition of the elders.
• Mark 7:8 – tradition of men.
• Mark 7:9 – Your OWN tradition.

b. There was nothing inherently wrong with traditions… even the traditions of men.
• Vs. 8 – What made them wrong was the fact that they elevated THEIR traditions (teachings; rules; commandments) ABOVE the commandments of God. They laid aside God’s Word in order to keep their own traditions.
• Mark 7:13 – they made God’s word of no effect by keeping their traditions.
• Mark 7:9 – they rejected God’s Word to keep their own traditions.

c. There was nothing wrong with Jews inventing their own traditions.
• Every family, tribe, kindred, and nation has their own unique traditions.

d. But there is something terribly wrong when MAN’S traditions (teachings; commandments) are elevated above GOD’S Word.
• That puts man in a position of authority above God!
• The Jews “laid aside” God’s commandments; they made God’s commandments “of none effect” in order to keep their own traditions.
• Traditions of men become WRONG when they are contrary to God’s Word… or cause us to violate, ignore, undermine or reject God’s inspired Word.
• The problem was not the fact that they had traditions.
• The problem was using them as an excuse to disobey, ignore, of reject God’s Word.

4. Traditions OF MEN.

a. “Of men” is the real emphasis here… man’s traditions… it is man’s because man invented it.

b. Paul in effect emphasizes the human SOURCE of these traditions.

c. It is certainly not wrong to hand teaching down from one man to another. That’s God’s method of communicating His truth!
• “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (II Tim. 2:2)
• Truth is perpetuated by passing it on… but beware because error is perpetuated the very same way!
• He was NOT warning against traditional teaching, passed on from generation to generation. That’s God’s method!

d. Paul’s warning was against those traditional teachings that originated with MEN rather than with God.
• The problem with the teachings of the false teachers is the ORIGIN of it all. What they were handing down to others originated with men.
• Paul’s concern was that their teachings were of men and not after Christ.

5. The false teachers in Colossae were using traditions of men to ENSLAVE the believers.

a. The false teachers were handing down teachings and rules and demanding compliance.

b. In doing so, all those who fell under their sway were ENSLAVED by them… held captive by their teachings…
• It is a GOOD thing to have our minds enslaved to Christ and the teachings of Christ. (II Cor. 10:5 – “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”)
• It is an evil thing to have our minds enslaved by the teachings and traditions of men and NOT after Christ.

c. We are to have ONE Master: Jesus Christ… and His Word.

d. And the teaching in the local church or anywhere else has authority only insofar as it points to Christ and is in harmony with His Word.

e. Don’t allow yourself to be enslaved to any other master… or to any other teaching!

f. Beware lest ye be spoiled… lest some golden tongued speaker beguiles you with enticing words… and draws you away from the simplicity that is in Christ!

Robbed and Enslaved through the Rudiments of the World

1. Rudiments: lit: “one of a row or series.”

a. The elements, rudiments, primary and fundamental principles of any art, science, or discipline; elementary truths.

b. It had several meanings attached to it: (1) the elementary sounds or letters, the ABCs; (2) the basic elements of the universe, as in 2 Peter 3:10–12; (3) the basic elements of knowledge, the ABCs of a particular discipline or teaching.

c. That seems to be its meaning in Hebrews 5:12 – ?For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. (the simple, basic, fundamental doctrines)

2. The rudiments of the world:

a. This is a difficult phrase to interpret. Various interpretations have been given.

b. Some have understood it to refer to the origin of the false philosophy as coming from evil spirits… since rudiments was understood as the basic elements of the spirit world…

3. It is best to understand the term as a form of legalism the Colossians faced.

a. Gal.4:3, 9 – the term speaks of the elements of the world as legalistic ordinances…
• Here Paul speaks of the same two issues as in Col: bondage/captives and elements of the world.
• The Galatian believers were influenced by the Judaizers to turn BACK to the shadows and symbols of Judaism as a way of life.
• The elements here refer to basic ceremonial, ritualistic ordinances in Israel which were (worldly) EARTHLY… as opposed to our heavenly blessings in Christ.
• They were mere shadows: Temple; animal sacrifices; ceremonies; holy days; feast days; dietary laws.
• These were all visible, tangible, and earthly.
• The Judaizers attempted to put the Galatians back under portions of the Mosaic Law… which would put them under a yoke their fathers were not able to bear.
• The false teachers in Colossae were attempting something similar.
• Their teachings were a combination of pagan asceticism and Jewish legalism.
• Going back to legalism or ceremonialism in any form was not an advance, but was spiritual regression.
• Believers need to go on to perfection… leaving the beginning principles behind and going on to maturity.
• False teachers captivate their hearers to their twisted ways which invariably leads to spiritual regression and not to Christlike maturity.

b. Col. 2:20-21 – Later Paul addresses this issue — “touch not, taste not, handle not.”
• It dealt with the outside of the cup but could do nothing to clean the inside.
• It was earthly, fleshly, and exalted self.
• Later in this chapter we will look at the CONTENT of this false teaching in more detail.
• But for now, the emphasis is on the SOURCE of it all… (from the world; earthly)

c. The expression “rudiments of the world” as the ABC’s of the world… or the basics of the way the world operates… which John defines for us as “the lusts of the flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life.” (I John 2:15)
• This false philosophy appealed to BASICS of worldly thinking: the lusts of the flesh and the eyes… and especially to human pride. (Be all you can be! You’re special! Ye shall be as gods!)
• Legalistic ordinances do just that. They appeal to the flesh and to human pride.
• Keep this tradition; observe this rule; keep this holy day and then GLORY in what self has accomplished—pride of life!
• Whatever is the exact meaning and content of the term “rudiments”… one thing is certain: the SOURCE of these ABCs… of these elementary things is the world and not after Christ.
• The false teachers were teaching World Philosophy 101 instead of Bible Doctrine 101.
• The basic rudiments/elements of this world… the empty philosophy of the world is NOT after Christ. The rudiments of the world are in fact that they stand in opposition to the heavenly Christ.
• The world, its ways, its thoughts are not anything like God, His ways, and His thoughts.
• “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
• There is an infinite gap between doctrines and world views that originate in the earthbound, blinded minds of fallen men and truth that is revealed from God in heaven.

4. That seems to be the main point in BOTH these descriptions of the false philosophy: it is of men… it is of the world… and it is NOT after Christ!

a. No wonder they were to beware of it! It was a structure built on a faulty foundation.

No wonder they were told to beware of those who sought to captivate their minds and hearts—it would be like exchanging Christ (in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge) for the traditions and philosophies of men… all of which were vain… empty… hollow.

b. Those who did so were thus robbed and enslaved. Beware!


1. I Cor. 15:1-4 – the gospel message was transmitted… passed on from Christ to Paul and the apostles… and now on to us.

2. This is truth that comes to us directly from God Himself…

a. This is not a philosophy or tradition that originated with man, but with God Himself.

b. Vs. 2a – it is a message by which we are to be SAVED.

c. That implies that we are NOT saved… that we are lost sinners on our way to Hell… to face the eternal Lake of Fire.

d. But God so loved the world—even you! (John 3:16)

e. This is a message of divine origin… and God has commanded all men everywhere to repent today… to change your mind from unbelief and rejection of Christ to faith…

f. Receive Him by faith today and be saved!

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