Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
We have considered the exhortation not to let anyone beguile or disqualify us from the race that we are on. In that race we are to fix our eyes on Christ as to the path and as our prize. Distractions yielded to will take us off track altogether.
The question then arises what is Paul warning us of in this particular context? We have: in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
Not the easiest of NT passages to understand.
In one sense it is not vital to understand the details of the particular practice(s) Paul was referring to, what is important are the underlying principles seen here.
There are two actions which Paul warns about that will disqualify us:
1. Voluntary humility
2. Worshipping of Angels
E3.1 A contrast
And He [Jesus] spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Two men went into the temple to pray the one a Pharisee and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself: “ God I than Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess”
And the Publican standing afar off would not lift up his eyes unto heaven but smote upon his breast saying, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.”
I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This parable gives us a Biblical perspective of humility. From Jesus’ final remarks we see that the publican was humble and so he went away justified. The Pharisee wasn’t justified, he was not humble but rather he exalted himself.
Both men addressed God directly. But with the Pharisee Jesus said he prayed with himself! In other words God did not hear him, even though he directly addressed God. The reason? He boasted of his good works and that he thought his achievements made him better than others around him. As Jesus pointed out he was trusting in himself that he was righteous, and at the same time despising others.
On the other hand the publican when addressing God had a different attitude altogether. He cried out to God for mercy [=propitiation]. He realised that he was a sinner and that he needed God to do something. He had nothing in his hands to bring, nothing of himself to trust in. He was wholly relying on God’s mercy to save him.
The Pharisee exalted himself, the Publican humbled himself. The former God will abase, the latter He will exalt. It is not for us to exalt ourselves nor boast of anything, for we have nothing except by the grace of God.
What was is then that distinguished the two men in the parable? The publican acknowledging his helpless state threw himself on the mercy of God. He was not trusting his own ability to be acceptable to God.
On the other hand the Pharisee was boasting in his self-righteous works and despising those who were not as he was. Instead this Pharisee wanted to openly declare his works and show how good he was. Jesus said of such a man that he prayed with himself.
..all of you be subject one to another and be clothed with humility for: God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble . Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. Casting all your care on Him for He careth for you.
We conclude that true humility is to acknowledge our true condition before God, that we are sinners and helpless, and by casting ourselves on God’s mercy for our salvation and everything we need to live as He would has us live.
False humility is trusting in the works of the flesh to find favour with God whilst giving the outward appearance of being humble.
E3.2 Voluntary humility
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels… vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind
Those of whom Paul was speaking said that these who had a voluntary humility were vainly puffed up in their flesh minds. In other words there was pride, the very opposite to true humility.
In fact we can say that the Pharisee in the parable we considered above had a voluntary humility and was puffed up in his fleshly mind. Trusting in himself that He was righteous. He listed openly and boasted of the works he was doing. Despite the appearance of humility before God he was full of pride. In fact the text simply says he prayed with himself. It was a self-congratulatory monologue, God was taking no notice.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them otherwise ye have no reward of your Father in heaven.
In the sixth chapter of Matthew this false humility is addressed by Jesus directly. He mentions specifically giving to charity, prayer and fastings. In all cases Jesus said that to do them so that the motive is to be seen and, by presumption, be praised by men would mean loss of reward. Or to put it in terms of Colossians: be disqualified from the prize.
Jesus then exhorts us to lay up treasure in heaven. How? By true humility and doing these things in secret before the Father and not to be seen of men for their approval.
In the context of this passage in Colossians Paul connects it to the worshipping of angels. In other words the false teaching and practice doing the rounds involved some sort of false humility. An outward appearance of things done to be seen of men for their approval. To such practices God does not hear, they do it to themselves.
If we think this is just a warning when heresy is about we miss the point. For it is quite possible in a true Bible believing church certain practices are engaged in just to be seen of men and give the outward appearance of being humble, but secretly desiring men’s approval.
Legalism is an example of a practice that produces false humility. Legalism produces rules in order to obtain favour of God. In so doing those who impose it and follow such regulations think they are contributing to their holiness and worthiness. What it produces is a another form of Phariseeism. Following the rules makes them feel good about themselves and panders to a person’s pride. It is an attitude that seeks the praise of others, to be seen of men.
Let us not be disqualified of the prize of Christ Himself by false humility.