Do you realize that we are in the middle of a war zone? In our Western way of thinking, we often forget how active angels and demons are around us. It’s a necessary to remember that we are wrestling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). However, we see, in the book of Colossians, that Jesus Christ has overcome these wicked rulers.
- Christ has authority over them (1:16-17). Even though title upon title is stacked up to emphasize their power and authority, these beings are subject to Jesus Christ. Why? Because He created them, and He created them for Himself—for His glory. He is before all of them in glory and might, and He alone is their source of authority. If even angelic and demonic rulers are subject to Christ, how much more are we!
- They promote false teachings (2:8). This reference to “elemental spirits” is debatable—the NIV translates it as “elementary principles”—but the context of the book, especially the next two verses, seem to support the ESV’s rendering. What a small but shocking glimpse into the spirit world! Here, we see demonic powers leading people astray by inventing and promoting false teachings which rely on human wisdom and philosophy. These teachings are used by demons to take people captive to “the domain of darkness” (1:13). When we see falsehoods taught by the world or even in the church, we must remember that these teachings are not merely misguided—they are demonic. We must be wary not to fall into the devil’s schemes.
- Their false teachings are inferior to the truth of Christ (2:9-10). In contrast to the “philosophy and empty deceit” based on the cooperative teaching of humans and demons, the truth of the Bible owes its authority to Christ, who is Himself God. He is “the head of all rule and authority”—again we see angelic powers in submission to Christ. If their glory, wisdom, and power pales in comparison to Christ’s, should we not be bold in proclaiming and believing His teaching? It may look like foolishness to the world, but it is the truth of “the whole fullness of deity.”
- Christ has defeated and shamed them (2:13-14). Before we were saved, demonic authorities held us captive because of our sins and our “record of debt”; the devil had a basis for accusing us of sin. Christ changed all that. Because He bore our sin on the cross, we are free from the debt. In one stroke, Jesus Christ disarmed the devil and his angels, removing any grounds for accusation against God’s people. Though we lived in shame as sinners, Christ bore our shame. Now it is the rulers and the authorities who are shamed! They have been defeated by a triumphant Christ, sent by God to show His power to save.
- They are not to be worshiped (2:18-19). Apparently, the Gnostics of Paul’s day were obsessed with angels to the point of worship. We must be careful not to repeat their error, as many in our culture do. While angels are real and presently active all around us, they are not the source of our life—Christ is. He is the Head, “from whom the whole body…grows with a growth that is from God” (2:19). Rather than seeking sensational spiritual experiences and visions (2:18), we should seek growth in Christ as part of the everyday life of His body, the church.
- We are dead to their kingdom (2:20-22). Our home is no longer “the domain of darkness” (1:13), and our king is no longer Satan. We died to this worldly kingdom and its “elemental spirits.” Since we are no longer a part of this kingdom, we are not subject to its laws. Yet when we occupy ourselves with submission to merely human regulations, precepts, and teachings, we revert back to the “old self with its practices” (3:9). We are to set our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:2). The demonic authorities love nothing more than to ensnare people in “self-made religion” (2:23), hiding the true life and grace found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.