For I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea…
This I say lest any man should beguile you. — As men love and desire only those things which have an appearance of good, so they believe only those which have a semblance of truth. This advantage which truth naturally has over falsehood compels its enemies to counterfeit its mask and wear its livery, as coiners give their copper or lead the colour of gold or silver in order to pass it as current coin; otherwise neither error nor base coin have a chance of acceptance. And as Christianity comprises the most important truths, so there never was a system which impostors have so laboured to corrupt; and so, therefore, ought we to strenuously endeavour to sever the falsehood which has been palmed off as the truth. This is one of the most important duties of our lives. It is loss to take bad money for good; it is hurtful to receive an error for truth in the simplest matters; but here the consequence of imposture is irreparable. So here and elsewhere the apostle warns the faithful against it (Romans 16:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:14).
I. THE DANGER OF THE COLOSSIANS of being deceived with enticing words. There never was a servant of Christ who was not beset by such a temptation. As soon as Satan sees the truth of the gospel appear he raises up impostors to corrupt it, and to alienate its professors from its purity.
1. The term employed means to deceive by false and ensnaring ratiocination. These bad men, knowing that we are not induced to embrace anything without some reason, our nature demanding that the understanding should precede the will, begin there to effect our ruin. It is a sophism, a false arguing which by its vain appearance and fallacious blaze leads men into error, as those fatuous fires which, rising at night, conduct those who follow them over precipices. Satan, the father of all sophisters, took this course first, attacking our first parents' understandings in the first place, and beguiling them that he might destroy them. All whom he has since employed have followed the same method. No heretic ever appeared who did not paint over his impostures with specious reasons. Some act maliciously, and in defiance of their own consciences; others through ignorance (Romans 10:2), like most of those of the Roman communion. But we must take heed of both. As poison fails not to kill the man who takes it, though given in ignorance; so error, from whatever hand it come, has a bad effect.
2. The means which false teachers use are "enticing words" (Romans 16:18; 1 Corinthians 2:4). Under this term are comprehended all that attractiveness of discourse which is apt to touch and win hearts. Eloquence too often makes things, as it were by enchantment, appear quite opposite — honey wormwood, black white, and vice versa. It can subvert a cause, however good; and establish it, however bad. It has frequently procured condemnation for the innocent, while the guilty have been acquitted with applause. But among all the busy people who use it none more perniciously employ it than corrupters of religion. Not that eloquence is to be decried. It has done good service to the gospel, and Paul, who here condemns it as a vehicle of error, does not reject it in the service of the truth. But as innocence is not always the best clothed, so truth frequently is not the most richly decked.
II. THE MEANS OF GUARDING AGAINST IT. "This I say" — what? "In Him are hid all the treasures," etc. None of the wiles of error can stand before these. Whoever has this principle in his heart will receive nothing out of Christ, and so has his ears effectually closed against the seductions of error.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;