Paul is saying, "Look, brethren, you have contact with and guidance from God. Why settle for demons?" Looking back into chapter one, we ought to see clearly why Paul wrote what he did: He was establishing the greatness of Christ as contrasted to demons.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-One)
In verse 8, the word translated as "basic principles of the world" refers to elementary things. Compared to Christ, in terms of being, every other being is lesser because he or she is created. In terms of teaching, every other instruction is elementary, basic, even demonic. In terms of salvation, no other is able to save human beings.
In verses 9-10, Paul again emphasizes Christ's primacy and superiority, including the facts that He is divine and over demons in authority. He adds in verses 11-15 that, for Christians, Jesus has already defeated the principalities and powers, along with their purposes, through their conversion.
As Colossians 1:16 states, Christ's rank extends back to the very beginning, as the One used to create all things. Thus, He is the God (John 1:1) referred to in nearly every place in the Old Testament where God is mentioned. This is especially important to grasp.
John 14:10 aids us in understanding His operations as a man: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Matthew 26:52-53 clarifies this through an example: "But Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?'"
While He was human, His power as a God-Being was suspended as part of His emptying Himself to become a man (Philippians 2:5-8). He thus operated on the same level as all other men, except for the innate power He possessed due to His divine nature, enabling Him to live by faith sinlessly. Better than all other men, He understood the purpose God is working out, and He believed it. Notice to whom He said He could turn in time of need.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)
At every turn, it seems, the main object of Gnosticism was to twist the nature of Christ. Some Gnostics believed that Jesus was a man, but that Christ entered into Jesus when He was baptized and left Him right before He died. Other Gnostics believedthat Jesus did not really die - because, after all, if He died, then He was not really God. Others believed that He could not have been perfect and sinless because He created matter, which Gnostics believed to be evil. And there were also those who believed that Jesus Christ was a created being - an idea that is still affecting the fringes of the church of God today.
So if we want to counter Gnosticism, we must begin with the truth of Jesus Christ. Paul emphasizes this in verses 9-10: Jesus was the fullness of the divine nature in bodily form, and He is the head, the leader, the sovereign, of every principality and power. Though the Gnostics in their various views always twisted or denied some aspect of the nature and role of Jesus Christ, these truths brought out by the apostle are bedrock beliefs for true Christians.
Also foundational to countering Gnosticism is the truth that Jesus brought. To combat the false knowledge that threatens to plunder our spiritual riches, we must take the Bible as the complete and inspired Word of God, against which we can test any concept, tradition, doctrine, or philosophy, no matter how good it sounds on the surface. Gnostics would not readily accept the Bible as God's inspired revelation, or if they did, they also held that other ancient, secret writings were on par with Scripture, and could be trusted to provide greater insight.
In addition, Gnostics were also avid proponents of "progressive revelation," the belief that God is continuing to reveal His will to mankind, but with the implication that Holy Scripture is not as important as hearing directly from the spirit world. Thus, some today, while not entirely rejecting the Bible, believe that "God" is personally revealing things to them - things which often contradict what He has already given to mankind in the His written Word.
David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Two: Defining Gnosticism
Colossians 1:15 and 2:9 are two of the strongest statements in the entire Bible about the divine nature of Jesus Christ. He is not only "equal to" God, He is God! Jesus not only reflects God, He reveals God. He was not a mere statue, a close representation of or likeness of God. He was not like the moon, which reflects the glory of something greater, the sun. He was certainly a channel for God's glory, completely and totally. Being completely holy, He has the authority to judge the world. In Him is no clearer view of what God is like!
Now what did He do when He became a man? As the full revelation of God, the complete expression of God in a human body, He is unique. Yet, He imposed on Himself all the time and space limitations that are imposed on all other human beings. He had every opportunity to waste time, to get drunk, to be a glutton, to get angry, embittered, depressed, upset, frustrated, to have headaches, or to strike out at others.
He had to work, just like other men did. He ran a business. He was a builder, a contractor. Did He have to meet a payroll? Very likely. Did He have to make sure that people paid Him? Very likely. Did He ever have to deal with people who did not pay their bills? Very likely. He imposed on Himself these kinds of things.
Maybe He even had the opportunity to be an in-law, as a brother-in-law to the wives of his brothers. He had to learn to live without a father in the family. Tradition says that His father died fairly early in His life—at least, His father was not around when He began preaching. He is not mentioned at all when Jesus was crucified. His human father's absence gave Christ the opportunity to be the head of a family, as well, and to take care of a widowed mother. He had the opportunity to live through the deaths of loved ones and to face His own death as well.
So, in the life of Jesus Christ, we see God coping with life on the same terms as other people. In Him, we are able to see the kind of character that God possesses. If we will just dare to meditate on these kinds of things, we can see how God acts in actual, real, everyday experiences.
In the gospels, we see God teaching. We see God healing. We see God laying down His life. We see God correcting in love. We see God patiently counseling. We see God reacting to others around Him. We can gather firsthand information about how we ought to react to similar situations in our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Colossians 2:9: