The Race set before us
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.
E1.1 Introductory remarks
Verse 18 is one of the most difficult verses in the NT to understand. Over the years there have been some excellent studies trying to identify what the worshipping of angels was. It is not our intention to pursue that particular theme, although some of those studies may well be mentioned, rather our purpose is to glean from it the application for us now in our daily Christian lives.
Supernatural encounters were a part of the Gnosticism facing the Colossians. Some commentators suggest that this could have been part of local pagan religions that became synchronised with the heresy. Whatever the truth Paul lays out that supernatural encounters, from the enemy, are a source of great danger for the child of God.
We know from the OT & the NT that God’s people can have supernatural encounters. Daniel had visitations of angels, Ezekiel had visions of God, Paul had visitations from angels, Peter had a vision from God, and so on.
However, we also read that some had encounters which were not from God. For example Eliphaz in Job 4:12-21. Further, Paul warns us in II Cor. 11, of the devil transforming himself into an angel of light.
So, not all spiritual encounters are from God. The question is: how do we discern the true from the false? Hopefully this and the following articles will be of some help to the reader.
If we consider the visions from God they had a definitive purpose and spiritual fruit resulted, namely in bringing men and women to Christ. Paul, in Corinth where God encouraged Him because there were many in that city; Peter with the vision of the unclean animals, led to the bringing in of the Gentiles to the church. We also note that those who had genuine supernatural encounters in scripture were not seeking for them, they came to the person.
E1.2 Do not be disqualified
Let no man beguile you of your reward. The word beguiled means disqualified, as a judge in an athletics race. In order to run a race legitimately the athlete has to follow the rules of the race. Modern practice, for example, demands that the athlete remains in his lane. To stray outside would mean instant disqualification. Whatever the cause of the erring.
Paul says don’t let anyone disqualify you from the spiritual race. Scripture reveals to us the way we are to proceed in this race. We have already considered it in this epistle:
As ye therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord walk ye in Him..
This picture is not referring to the race as such (unless it is a walking race), but the message is the same: don’t wander away from the path God has placed you on! A similar message was given to the Galatians.
Ye did run well who did hinder you?
The word hinder means an obstacle. Imagine a runner in a race coming across an obstacle on the track. What would they do? Would they stop and examine it, saying: “what a nice looking hindrance this is”? No! They would avoid it somehow in order to continue the race.
For the Galatians the hindrance was legalism. But hindrances could be anything. In Colossians we have examined the world’s Philosophy, that is a hindrance that could well disqualify us. Now we are about to examine Mysticism. We must not allow this either to disqualify us from the race.
These hindrances come and go, they have no power over us unless we allow them to do so. The exhortation is that we do not let anyone disqualify us from the race that we are running.
E1.3 The reward
..let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…
Each believer has a race to run. The details for each person may be different and unique, but the underlying principles of running that race are the same. In the Hebrew passage we are exhorted to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He had His race to run on the earth.
How did Jesus run His race? The first temptation in the wilderness gives us the answer:
Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Jesus showed us how that worked out in practice. John’s gospel is full of how Jesus came to do His Father’s Will, and that He did nothing except by what His Father said. Jesus never did His own will, it was always what His Father wanted, He came to do the Father’s will, Heb.10:5-9. If that was Jesus’ way of running His race, then it should be for us too.
If we put our trust in the Lord, lay aside our own understanding and acknowledge Him He has promised to direct our paths, Prov. 3:5-6. We need not go astray in our race at all.
By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray;
We shall not full direction need,
Nor miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear,
While love, almighty love, is near.
Know ye not that that they which run in a race run all but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain
I Cor.9: 24
Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended [=lay hold of] but this one thing I do forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth until those things which are before I press toward the mark [=object/goal] for the high for the prize of God in Christ Jesus.
Phil 3 :13-14
The word press used here means to pursue, and is used as a metaphor from a race. Paul, using the figure of a race, encourages us to move forwards and gain the prize. To keep our eyes and heart fixed on the end point of our race, and not to go looking at the clouds which blow with the wind of false teaching hither and thither.
Our fixed point is Jesus, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Our prize is Christ Himself. All other things are of no value when compared to Him.
I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered all things and do count them but dung that I may win Christ
To go after Philosophy, Legalism and Mysticism, or anything else, is to be diverted from our path in the race. To the natural man they may be fascinating obstacles to look at and consider, but they are still obstacles and will divert people from the true path.
Christ is our life, our hope, our prize; in fact our all in all. We need nothing or no one else. The Lord Jesus Christ is all in all and has the pre-eminence. He indeed is all we need.