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.
The voluntary humility then is false humility and can disqualify us from the prize. In our consideration of the rest of this passage we must not lose sight of this false humility. Paul now mentions worshipping of angels. What does this mean?
This is one of the most difficult parts of the epistle, if not the whole of the NT, to understand. Whilst it is not vital to know what specific practice Paul was referring to, it is instructive to see what some commentators think.
E4.1 Worshipping of angels
The traditional understanding is that the phrase worshipping of angels refers to worship that is offered to angels rather than men joining in the worship that angels were offering.
Irenaeus stated that, in some early Gnostic groups, it was the angels who created the world. They occupied the lowest heaven, one of whom is said to be the God of the OT. This would naturally lead to angel worship.
In the ancient world angels would be invoked to ward off evil and be called on for protection.
Some state that visions of angels were part of initiation rites of the local mystery religion.
Whilst there is some uncertainty as to the exact practice Paul references, there is no doubt that some form of angel worship was included in the heresy.
We know from scripture that angel worship is forbidden. Mtt.4:9-10; Rom.1:25; Rev.22:8-9. Jesus in the wilderness made it clear, by quoting Deuteronomy, that we are worship the Lord God ALONE. Paul was reiterating this and pointing out that worshipping angels would disqualify us from the prize.
E4.2 looking unto angels???
The heresy had an hierarchy of angels/demi-gods. They taught that the true God cannot be known so a group of demi- gods were thought to have been created of whom Jesus was the last. Because we cannot know God, they argued, we have to be in contact with these ‘angels’ so that they will intercede for us. In doing so we are very humble. Hence the false humility.
This plainly contradicts the NT teaching that Christ is the only way to the Father, that by His death and resurrection the way into the Holy of holies is now open to all who come by Jesus by faith.
In principle this false practice still continues in some places that claim to be Christian. This is the same in principal as the veneration of Saints in certain churches, ( which also includes praying to the ‘Saints’ for our intercession). Or have some talisman with a saint on it to protect one! The thinking being that we can’t go to God directly for help so pray to a saint to intercede for us. Sounds very humble, yet it is this false humility
Some also taught that these angels gave special secret knowledge to the initiates. It was this secret ‘gnosis’ that brought a person’s enlightenment. In some quarters today some claim to have had special visions of angels and have had special teachings from them. Because these people claim it is direct knowledge from ‘God’ then it must be true and no one dare question it; this is the ”I’ve had the revelation you haven’t. “ attitude.
This is pride in the guise of humility. It sets up an hierarchy of those with the revelation and those who don’t. Believers are then robbed of their liberty in Christ if they allow themselves to be made subject to those with the so called revelation.
Some people love to make a parade of exceptional piety. They pretend to have found the way to a higher plane of spiritual experience as though they had been initiated into sacred mysteries which gave them an advantage over the uninitiated.
This can easily disqualify us from the prize of our high calling in Christ. How then can we discern?
E4.3 Angels of light
..for such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.
II Cor. 11: 13-15
In this passage we have a remarkable revelation. Satan can appear as an angel of light! And if he does then surely his ministers can also transform themselves outwardly to appear true ministers of the Gospel. If we think about it this is what happened in Eden. Satan did not appear as one who had rebelled against God, rather as a creature that Eve apparently wasn’t afraid of.
This is a warning to us, in that all that glitters is not gold. We mustn’t take ministries at face value there must needs be discernment – a testing of the spirits, I Jn.4:1.
How can we then tell? The context of this passage shows us. The reader is advised to read II Cor.11:1-4 in particular. We have in a previous study made reference to these verses, so a summary is only intended.
Firstly, Satan tries to corrupt us from the simplicity in Christ. The Gospel is simple so that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Satan tries to rob people by corrupting the simplicity of it all. For example you need to do something yourself, keep this rule, regulation. Take part in an initiation ceremony. In fact anything that the carnal flesh can come up with in order to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel.
Secondly, another Jesus is preached. Reading I John shows that the one clear way of testing the spirits is to examine the teaching on Christ. In John’s gospel Jesus said that to receive the Holy Spirit one has to believe Jesus as the scripture reveals Him to be, Jn.7:37-39. The conclusion is unmistakable: those who preach a Jesus not according to scripture do not have the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, another spirit is ministered. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement, guiding us into truth, and speaks not of Himself but of Jesus, and glorify Jesus, Jn.16:7-14.
So what is the fruit of these ministers? Is it prosperity, some thrilling experience, bondage to something or someone else? By their fruits you shall know them. The true minister of the Spirit is Christ centred, and where the Holy Spirit is truly moving there is conviction of sin and righteousness, and most vital of all it brings glory to Jesus. As Wesley puts it : ‘tis all my business here below to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb!’
Finally, in Paul’s list we have another gospel. What is the gospel that is preached? Is it the one shown clearly in the NT, or is it one that appeals to the carnal nature? An example is the denial of Christ’s substitutionary death, and they replace it with the finding the true self and denying the false self!
Paul in Galatians makes it abundantly clear that even if an angel were to preach any other gospel other than which he proclaimed they are to be accursed, Gal.1:7!
To conclude this article we give a quote from Matthew Henry on these verses in Colossians.
It looked like humility to apply to angels as if men were conscious of their unworthiness to speak directly to God. But it is not warrantable, it is taking that honour which is due to Christ only and giving it to a creature. There really was pride in this seeming humility. Those who worship angels disclaim Christ, Who is the only Mediator between God and man.