|Puffed up in visions they have seen
Colossians is a tremendous book. Of this verse in Colossians, let’s first focus on the first five words, Paul’s warning, underline mine-
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (Colossians 2:18 ESV)
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, (Colossians 2:18, NASB)
“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,” (Colossians 2:18 KJV).
The word disqualify/defraud/beguile here in context refers to an umpire. Strong’s defines it,
“to deprive” refers to discouraging (misleading) believers, diverting them from their full potential for receiving their unique glorification.
Paul uses the same metaphor with the result being the prize in Philippians 3:7-14. In the MacArthur commentary the prize is explained. Now, be assured that no one can deprive you of the ultimate prize, salvation. Of that, Jesus said “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:28-29).
Spurgeon said in his excellent sermon on the verse titled “A Warning to Believers“,
THERE is an allusion here to the prize which was offered to the runners in the Olympic games, and at the outset it is well for us to remark how very frequently the Apostle Paul conducts us by his metaphors to the racecourse. Over and over again he is telling us so to run that we may obtain, bidding us to strive, and at other times to agonize, and speaking of wrestling and contending. Ought not this to make us feel what an intense thing the Christian life is—not a thing of sleepiness or haphazard, not a thing to be left now and then to a little superficial consideration?
Though you can’t be disqualified for the ultimate prize, an umpire can sideline you. Or, he can make calls that affect the other players in the game around you, diminishing your effectiveness. MacArthur said of the umpire metaphor,
The false teachers claimed a mystical union with God. Paul exhorts the Colossians not to allow those false teachers to keep defrauding them of their prize. It was as if the heretics assumed the role of spiritual referees and disqualified the Colossians for not abiding by their rules. ~MacArthur Commentary on Colossians & Philemon
False doctrine is not only a corruption in the church, it does damage to you individually. One way false teaching and false teachers harm you is that following them even temporarily and certainly for a long period disqualifies you for the prize. That much is clear.
What is inferred is our responsibility to our brethren who are following a false teacher. How will it be when they are judged, when told to give an account of themselves (Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Service to Jesus and our works for him while in the flesh is examined, as well as conscience, words spoken, and how well we overcame the flesh, in addition to other things. We will cringe and cry when we hear Jesus say that a friend has lost some prizes because they followed a false teacher and thus were disobeying Jesus, while we knew all along and never said anything.
|Christ’s soldiers are striving for the prize
And will that be counted as sin against us? A sin of omission is just as bad as a sin of omission. James 4:17 says,
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Pursuing evil is sinful (sin of commission) and avoidance of doing good is also bad. (sin of omission) What, then, as we see a sister sliding into the influence of a false teacher and we fail to warn, even as Paul warned the Colossians? We are supposed to build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Romans 14:19). What will Jesus say to us regarding a sister we let down?
As for the rest of the verse, I listened to 4 sermons and read 4 different commentaries, just on Colossians 2:18. It’s a powerful verse and has within it portents, warnings, and explanations. It’s dense and difficult. But here is the master of logic, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who made it so clear. I enjoyed his sermon on the verse best. (Although Spurgeon’s was a close second).
In this portion of his sermon, “The Danger of Error“, Lloyd-Jones is talking about the ones who were upsetting the Colossians, the Gnostics. He said they were people who are false, and in that falsity have a striking characteristic which gives them away. It’s not the only characteristic, but it is one you’ll see often. As you read this transcribed part of the sermon, see if this doesn’t bring anyone to mind. Of course, listening to the sermon is preferred because his accent, inflections, and word emphases bring the piece to life.
[Of the cults and false religions]…don’t they always give you an impression they are much more zealous and enthusiastic than you are? Always talking about it, always advocating it, always urging you to go to their meetings. They’re tremendous in enthusiasm, and zeal, and activity. Now the scriptures teach us that it’s always a characteristic of such people. It is one of the great errors of course, that the devil always makes, he always overdoes what he’s trying to do. He produces therefore this carnal excitable zeal. The Apostle doesn’t hesitate to use the term like “delusion.” He says let no man beguile you with enticing words. Yes! It is a beguiling. It is a form of delusion. And the result of such a delusion always is that you get this…excess. This overplus, somehow always overdone.
Let’s be clear about these things. Oftentimes this very enthusiasm is the thing that that attracts innocent Christian people. “Look at their zeal, they can’t be wrong! Look at what they’re prepared to sacrifice, look at the time they give to it! They must be right’, says the innocent Christian. The NT has much to say about this. They have itching ears to start with, then they’re carried away by this false zeal.”
Here is Spurgeon on that excitable zeal the false mystics put forth to beguile you:
A notion is abroad that if you are but earnest and sincere, you will be all right. Permit me to remind you that if you travel never so earnestly to the north, you will never reach the south, and if you earnestly take prussic acid you will die, and if you earnestly cut off a limb you will be wounded. You must not only be earnest, but you must be right in it. Hence is it necessary to say, “Let no man beguile you of your reward.” “I bear them witness,” said the Apostle, “that they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, but went about to establish their own righteousness,
|Don’t let their mystical visions beguile you!
Keep thinking about who teaches falsely with zeal and enthusiasm, so much so that many others are confounded by their energy, as Lloyd-Jones says, believing that so much zeal must stem from a Godly source.
Lloyd-Jones concluded by offering some practical tests to see if someone is false, these mystical ascetics, puffed up with visions-
Here are the tests:
1. Keep Christ and your relationship to him central
2. A way to test any teaching is this: does it make you think better of Christ? Does it magnify Him? Does it exalt Him? You’ll find with these other things, my friends, that they don’t do that. You’ll be praising their teaching.
Keep thinking about those false teachers who inspire impassioned defenders, saying that he or she is great, rather than how he or she pointed them to the Great One.
Keep thinking about them that go on and on about their messages from God, their visions, dreams, personal revelations delivered to them in the bathroom or a cabin in Wyoming or half-asleep in bed, and check your mind and heart to see if you don’t think they are a little bit more mystical and theologically higher up than you are because of it. Or worse, if the false teacher himself or herself thinks they are higher up than you poor saps who don’t get the regular direct deliveries … but they’ll humbly share them with you anyway.
Let’s end where we started. Don’t let anyone defraud you of the prize. The ultimate prize is Jesus, His faith, His comfort. Spurgeon said,
Let no man deprive you of the present comfort which your faith should bring to you. … Let me just for a few minutes have your attention while I speak upon this. Dear brethren, you and I, if we are believers in Christ, are this day completely pardoned. There is no sin in God’s book against us. We are wholly and completely justified. The righteousness of Jesus Christ covers us from head to foot, and we stand before God as if we had never sinned. Now let no man rob you of this reward. Do not be tempted by anything that is said to doubt the completeness of a believer in Christ. Hold this, and, as you hold it, enjoy it. Let no man beguile you of the reward of feeling that you are complete in Christ.
|Lars Justinen, Robe of Righteousness