God’s Word for You
Colossians 2:18-19 Do not let anyone disqualify you
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 11, 2019
18 Do not let anyone disqualify you of the reward by delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, taking a stand on what he has seen. He is vainly puffed up by his unspiritual mind.
There was evidently a group in Colosse, possibly an entire cult, which venerated the Archangel Michael and which combined Jewish, Gnostic and pagan elements in a kind of syncretized angel-cult religion. There was even a legend that the well-known curative spring that was there had been brought forth by the Archangel Michael himself.
Paul doesn’t need to caution his Christian readers against joining this cult, but he needs to reassure them that their attacks against the faith of the Christians is nothing to worry about.
First, the angel-cult boasted about their (false) humility. Genuine humility comes from true faith in God. It isn’t the fawning and groveling that one sees in some men who are secretly plotting your ruin at the same time; men who ask every question with a false motive as if they are always gathering information in case they need to use it against you at a later time. True humility really puts other people first, as Abraham did when he spoke with the Hittites about a grave for his wife. Even when they told him he could have the land for free, he wanted to pay them (Genesis 23:10-13). Sinful pride might have said, “Nobody will help Abraham; Abraham will do everything himself and get all the glory.” But Abraham really wanted to have good relations with the Hittites, partly because he was only one man and they were his allies, but mostly, I think, to smooth the path for the gospel. This is always what our humility is leading to: a way for the gospel to work in the world. “For he was looking forward to the city without foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Second, the worship of angels is not pleasing to God. He is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9), and he will not share worship with his creation; not even the angels. Remember that the angels even had to tell the Apostle John, “Do not worship me!” (Revelation 19:10, 22:9). Maybe John included those embarrassing scenes in his book because other people were falling into this practice Paul warns about. Our prayers and our worship belong to God alone, and not to his creatures, whether men, angels, or carvings of calves or bulls (Exodus 32:4; Psalm 106:19-20; Hosea 8:6).
Third, the angel-cult featured men and women who were reporting what they had seen in visions. But Paul warned the Corinthians, “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). And Jeremiah warned: “Those prophets prophesy lies in my name. I did not send them, I did not command them, and I did not speak to them. They are prophesying a false vision to you, a worthless divination—something from their own imagination” (Jeremiah 14:14 EHV). And again: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are making you worthless. They speak visions from their own hearts and not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16 EHV). The devil deludes the mind of the unbeliever so that he thinks he himself is becoming Christ. The devil doesn’t care what the warped and deluded imposter thinks, just as long as he turns away from Jesus. If he turns others away, too, then the devil really rolls back on his heels and laughs, but his laughter will not last. “He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).
19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that comes from God.
Earlier, Paul described Christ as the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). Now he uses that picture to explain what has happened to those who fall into the cult of angel-worship or into the cult of Mary or the cult of the Saints. They have lost connection with Christ, thinking that they are simply nailing more legs to the altar of their prayers by asking Mary or Michael or Aaron’s gold calf to help them. But we have a direct connection to Christ through faith, and our common confession of that faith knits us together like a body joined together with muscle and flesh into one living, working whole, with Christ as the head.
Luther said, “But beware of these snares of Satan, and set up a definition of the contemplative life… that it is the true contemplative life, to hear and believe the spoken Word and to want to know nothing ‘except Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). He alone, with His Word, is the profitable and salutary object of contemplation. Beware of forsaking Him” (LW 3).
Likewise, Ignatius warned the Trallians: “Flee from these wicked offshoots that bear deadly fruit. If a man tastes them he soon dies. These are not the planting of the Father. For if they were they would appear as branches of the cross and their fruit would be imperishable. By the cross through his passion, he calls you who are his members. The head can’t be born without limbs, since God promises union—which is himself” (Ign. to the Trallians 11:1-2).
Christ works through us the way a head accomplishes its work through the limbs and stamina of the body. When we know our role in his kingdom, we are truly blessed. To know my place, to know who is my Head, and to follow him! This is truly freedom and joy! Without the headship of Christ, I would be a useless and discarded toe lying in the mud, a thing to be sneered at and disposed of, a wretch that would only make people retch. But as things are, I have been brought into the body of Christ. I am a beautiful and useful thing because Christ my head is beautiful and glorious! All praise to him, all worship and honor, forever and ever.
Pastor Timothy Smith