Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you with speculation about what he has seen. Such a man is puffed up without basis by his unspiritual mind,
I. ANGEL WORSHIP IS CLEARLY CONDEMNED.
1. The angel whom John would have worshipped, said, "See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant.., worship God" (Revelation 22:9).
2. God will not share his rights with another. "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." The first commandment forbids all other worship.
3. There is but one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5, 6). Papists say that the apostle merely condemns such worship of angels as excludes Christ, but the condemnation is most absolute and simple. Besides, Christ is declared to be the one single and only way to the Father, to the exclusion of all angelic mediators. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me;" "If ye shall ask anything in my Name, I will do it" (John 14:6, 14). "We offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
4. The worship of angels implies an omniscience on their part which belongs only to God. God only knows the hearts of men (2 Chronicles 6:30).
5. Our Lord's superiority to all angels, as asserted in Hebrews 1. and it implies the same condemnation; for they are merely "ministering spirits, sent to minister to the heirs of salvation."
II. THE MOTIVE OF THIS ANGEL WORSHIP. "A voluntary humility." The idea of the false teachers, like that of modern Papists, was that God was so high and inaccessible that he could only be approached through the mediation of inferior beings. It was remembered that the Law was given "by the ministration of angels" (Acts 7:53), and that angels exercised a certain tutelary guardianship (Daniel 10:10-21). But it was, after all, a mere parade of humility to approach God through the mediation of such inferior creatures. It implied, besides, a serious misrepresentation of the fitness of the one Mediator, of whom it was said, "It behoved him to be made like to his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God" (Hebrews 2:17). He surely can sympathize with us even more closely than angels, for he shared our human nature. It was, therefore, a false and perverted humility that sought the intercession of angels.
III. THE SPIRIT THAT SHAPED THIS DOCTRINE OF ANGEL WORSHIP. "Dwelling in the things he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind."
1. The false teachers claimed to have visions of the heavenly world and a knowledge of angels which they could not possibly possess. They claimed to know the secrets of a region which they had never seen.
2. They were filled with great self conceit, notwithstanding their parade of excessive humility. "Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." The Gnostic tendency was always associated with an assumption of superior knowledge, but it was an utterly groundless assumption. It was "in vain." It was without reason or ground. God would resist it (James 4:7); men would not regard it (Proverbs 11:2); and they themselves would inherit nothing by it but folly (Proverbs 14:8; 1 Timothy 6:4). Even where real visions are vouchsafed, there is a temptation to self elation, as in the case of the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7). But, in the case of false visions, the tendency would be still more manifest. The mind would be "the mind of the flesh," as it is literally; not "the mind of the Spirit." It was "the carnal mind that is enmity with God." Let us rather seek to become "fools that we may be wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18), and not be "puffed up one against another." It is knowledge that puffeth up (1 Corinthians 8:1); it is only love that edifieth.
IV. THE NEGATIVE SOURCE OF THE HERESY OF ANGEL WORSHIP. "Not holding the Head from whom the whole body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God." The Colossian errorists invented angel worship because they did not see in Christ the true and only Mediator who was to bridge the chasm between God and men. They put inferior beings in the place of him who is the only Source of spiritual life. They did not "hold the headship' doctrinally; they had no individual or vital adherence to the Head as the Source of life to them.
1. Jesus Christ, as the Head, is the true Source of spiritual life and energy. He who is "at once the lowest and the highest," who is "the Word made flesh," "raises up man to God, and brings God down to man" The fulness of the Godhead resides in him bodily, and out of that fulness he communicates freely to us.
2. The relation of the body to the Head. "From whom the whole body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands."
(1) The care of Christ extends to every member of the body. We must likewise learn to extend our love to all the saints.
(2) There is a double effect produced by the relation of Head and members.
(a) The supply of nutriment. Christ is the sole Source of supply to our souls - "through the joints." God calls us "to this fellowship with his Son" (1 John 1:7).
) We can have no spiritual nutriment from Christ till we have believed in him.
) The joints through which our supply of grace comes cannot be broken. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:39).
(b) The compacting of the frame into a perfect unity - "knit together by bands." Christ is the Source of the Church's unity. "He hath made both one" (Ephesians 2:14). There is a unity of faith, a unity of spiritual life, a unity of ordinance, a unity of love, a unity of final destiny, in the Church, by virtue of her connection with her Head.
3. The end of this relation. "Increaseth with the increase of God;" that is, with the increase which he supplies.
(1) The body grows extensively, by the addition of new members; it grows intensively in grace, knowledge, and the practice of all holy duties.
(2) he First Cause of all this growth is God. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but "it is God who gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6). Thus through Christ, God and man are linked together; the finite and the Infinite are reconciled; the great problem of speculation has been at last practically solved.
V. THE DANGER OF ANGEL WORSHIP. "Let no man rob you of your prize." The apostle implies that the prize of eternal life - "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" - would be lost by turning aside from the Head to angelic mediators. We must not "lose what we have wrought" in this way (2 John 1:10). "Let no man take thy crown" (Revelation 3:11). Let us, therefore, avoid "profane babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Timothy 6:20), and hold fast "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:4). - T. C.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility.I. THE SPECULATIVE SIDE OF THE COLOSSIAN HERESY. In the Authorized Version the apostle is made to bring a charge of presumption against the false teachers "intruding into the things which he hath not seen." But this is a strange argument for one whose whole walk was by faith and not by sight, and who would hardly count it an answer to a professed revelation to say "you are intruding into that which you have not seen, and therefore you cannot know" with modern materialists. But this difficulty is removed in the Revised Version, which, on high authority, omits the "not," and inverts the argument. Again, the Greek word "intruding into" means "dwelling in" or "taking his stand upon," and the charge now becomes that of self-complacent self-conceit.
1. This man has "seen things," the exact equivalent of our "a man has views," a phrase of which obscure thinkers are very fond. The Colossian speculator may have professed to see visions and revelations of the Lord, and to bare come back from the third heaven to reveal them; or, if not this, to have seen things in the tone of an arrogant thinker, who gives his notions the style of certainties, verified with the eye of the mind, "dwelling in" them with complacent satisfaction as the whole of truth.
2. Or we may take the marginal reading, "taking his stand upon" his views; regarding them as land which he has won with his intellectual bow and spear, and from which he can go on to move or conquer the universe.
3. These new thinkers spoke much of the mind, made knowledge the bait of their enticements, endeavoured to establish an aristocracy of intellect within that Christian society which was free to all comers, and in which the wise and prudent are set side by side with babes. How striking is St. Paul's language, "idly inflated with the mind of his flesh." So far from being edified into the spiritual realm it was merely puffed up, and had its moving power in the repudiated sphere of matter. That Paul would so describe all so-called modern thought which sets aside Christ is certain.
II. We pass on to verse 23 to THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF THE NEW HERESY.
1. Here we have its treatment of matter, how its teachers sought by ceremonial prohibitions (ver. 21) to counteract the deadly influence of sense in spirit, and to mortify the body as an enemy of the spiritual life. It was a plausible, and perhaps, in its origin, a well-intentioned effort. It was nobler than that which treats matter as of no moment. But the two perversions have one root. Asceticism and licence both rob the body of its dignity as the servant of the spirit.
2. St. Paul admits that the ascetic rules have a show of wisdom; they speak plausibly, and promise largely by their will worship, i.e., their religion of self-imposed observances; by their humility, i.e., their obsequiousness; and by their severity to the body, i.e., their mortifying restrictions.
3. Thus far both versions agree. But now the Authorized Version says, "not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." This leaves out a particle which demands a contrast. But without this is it in accordance with St. Paul's teaching to blame a system for not satisfying the flesh? Indeed, the Greek word is "indulgence." But the Revised Version has inserted the particle of antithesis, and reads, "but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh." The language is borrowed from the medical profession. What is good for it? What is a valuable remedy for such and such a disease? Indulgence of the flesh is the disease; can asceticism cure it? St. Paul says no! It sounds well, professes loudly, but has no real value.
4. Rules of abstinence, regulations as to food or drink — lawful, indeed, but from which it is an act of religion to abstain — have a show of wisdom; they point to a terrible evil and profess to cure it; they are well sounding words, "temperance" and the like; they talk of the value of humility in bending the neck to discipline. St. Paul does not deny that the conquest of the body is good, and that the means have something to say for themselves; but he declares as a man of large experience who has tried all means, and who is taught of God that all such regulations will fail.
III. THE TRUE PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN THINKING AND LIVING.
1. In Christ Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. They who do not hold fast the Head therefore, whatever they may think or see or dream, cannot but be puffed up and not edified.
2. In Christ with whom our life is hid in God (chap. Colossians 3:1) can alone be found the secret of the victory over the flesh which is the professed object of every system of ethics. If ye are dead what need of "touch not," etc.? If ye are risen the chains of flesh shall fall off by the influence of the spiritual life.
(Dean Vaughan.)I. THE WARNING.
1. "Let no man rob you of your prize." The metaphor is that of the race or wrestling ground; the judge is Christ, the reward is the crown, not of fading bay leaves, but of sprays from the "tree of life" which dower with blessedness the brows round which they are wreathed. The tendency of the heresy is to rob them of this. No names were mentioned, but the portrait of the robber is drawn with four rapid but accurate strokes of the pencil.(1) "Delighting in humility and the worshipping of angels" —(a) The humility has not a genuine ring about it. Self-conscious humility in which a man takes delight is not the real thing. A man who knows that he is humble and is self-complacent about it, glancing out of the corners of his downcast eyes at any mirror where he can see himself, is not humble at all. "The devil's darling vice is the pride that apes humility."(b) So very humble were these people that they would not venture to pray to God. The utmost they could do was to lay hold of the lowest link of a long chain of angel mediators in hope that the vibration might run upwards through all the links, and perhaps reach the throne at last. Such fantastic abasement which would not take God at His word, nor draw near to Him through Christ, was the very height of pride.(2) "Dwelling in the things he hath seen," i.e., by visions, etc. The charge against the false teachers was of "walking in a vain show "of unreal imaginations.(3) "Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." The self-conscious humility was only skin deep, and covered the utmost intellectual arrogance. The false teacher was like a blown bladder, dropsical from conceit of "intellectual ability" which was after all only the instrument of the flesh, the sinful self. Of course, such could have no grip of Christ, from whom such tempers were sure to detach.(4) Therefore, the damning indictment closes with "not holding the head."
2. The special forms of these errors are gone; but the tendencies which underlay them are as rampant as ever.(1) The worship of angels is dead, but we are often tempted to think that we are too sinful to claim our portion of the promises. The spurious humility is by no means out of date, which knows better than God whether He can forgive, and grasps at others as well as Christ, the one Mediator.(2) We do not see visions and dream dreams, except that here and there some one is led astray by "spiritualism," but plenty of us attach more importance to our speculations than to the clear revelation of God in Christ. The "unseen world" has for many an unwholesome attraction. The Gnostic spirit is still among us which despises the foundation truths of the gospel as milk for babes, and values its baseless artificial speculations about subordinate matters which are unrevealed because they are subordinate, and fascinating to some minds because unrevealed, far above the truths which are clear because they are vital, and inspired because clear.(3) And a swollen self-conceit is, of all things, the most certain to keep a man away from Christ. We must feel our utter helplessness and need before we shall lay hold of Him; and whatever slackens our hold of Christ tends to deprive us of the final prize. "Hold fast that thou hast; let no man take thy crown."
II. THE SOURCE AND MANNER OF ALL TRUE GROWTH is set forth in order to enforce the warning and to emphasize the need of holding the head.
1. Christ is not merely represented as supreme and sovereign, but as the source of spiritual life.
2. That life which flows through the head is diffused through the whole body by the various and harmonious action of all the parts. The body is "supplied and knit together," i.e., the functions of nutrition and compaction into a whole are performed by the "joints and bands," in which last word are included muscles, nerves, tendons. Their action is the condition of growth, but the Head is the source of all. Churches have been bound together by other bonds, such as creeds, polity, nationality; but an external bond is only like a rope round a bundle of faggots.
3. The blessed results of supply and unity are effected through the action of the various parts. If each organ is in healthy action the body grows. There is diversity in offices; the same life is light in the eyes, beauty in the cheek, strength in the hand, thought in the brain. The effect of Christianity is to heighten individuality, and to give to each man his own proper "gift from God." The perfect light is the blending of all colours.
4. A community where each member thus holds firmly by the Head will increase with the increase of God. There is an increase not of God. These heretical teachers were swollen with dropsical self-conceit. The individual may increase in apparent knowledge, in volubility, in visions and speculations, in so-called Christian work; the Church may increase in members, wealth, influence, etc., and it may not be sound growth, but proud flesh that needs the knife.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. THREATENS TO ROB THE RELIEVER OF HIS REWARD. Many erroneous opinions may be held without invalidating salvation; but any error that depreciates our estimate of Christ, and interrupts the advance of our Christian life, is a robbery.
II. ADVOCATES THE MOST PRESUMPTUOUS AND PERILOUS SPECULATIONS.
1. It affects a spurious humility. God is unknowable to the limited powers of man, so it reasons. But this humility was voluntary, self-induced, and was in reality another form of spiritual pride.
2. It invents a dangerous system of angelolatry.
3. It pretends to a knowledge of the mysterious. Locke says a work in the drawer of a cabinet might as well pretend to guess at the construction of the universe, as man venture to speculate about the unseen world.
III. IGNORES THE DIVINE SOURCE OF ALL SPIRITUAL INCREASE.
1. Christ is the great Head of the Church — the centre of its unity, the source of its life, authority, and influence.
2. The Church is vitally and essentially united to Christ.
3. The vital union of the Church with Christ is the condition of spiritual increase. Lessons: A false philosophy —
1. Distorts the grandest truths.
2. Substitutes for truth the most perilous speculations.
3. Against its teachings be ever on your guard.
(G. Barlow.)I. THE APOSTLE BRANDS THE SEDUCERS AND CONCLUDES THAT NO REGARD IS TO BE PAID TO THEM.
1. Because in sacred things they arrogated to themselves, by no right whatever, a power of determining as the judges were accustomed in contests. These voluntary umpires decreed the reward of eternal life to none who were unwilling to subscribe to their doctrines. Therefore, as St. Paul struck at this usurpation, we must understand that no such power is granted to man that he should determine anything in religion of his own will; but is bound to judge according to Scripture (Isaiah 8:20). Hence estimate Romish tyranny which claims this very power.
2. They abused their power to deceive Christians. A director of the games, if he should order any one to run outside the course, would deprive him of his prize; because he would never that way arrive at the goal. So they who direct Christians to seek salvation apart from Christ, endeavour to beguile them of their reward (Hebrews 3:14). This condemnation rests on all who would lead us from the simplicity of Christ.
II. HE SHOWS IN WHAT INSTANCE THEY ABUSED THEIR USURPED AUTHORITY. The foolish lowliness of mind which would seek the mediation of angels rather than that of Christ, is rebuked because Christ is more united to us than the angels (Romans 5:2; Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:12).
1. Because from this and similar places there arises between us and the Papists a great controversy about the worship of angels and deceased saints who are equal to the angels (Luke 20:36); let us see with whom the truth lies.(1) Religious worship, whether it be called latria or dulia, is given to God alone, and not to angels or saints. "Religion," says Cicero, "is that which is comprised in the pious worship of the gods," and Hilary says that "religion paid to the creature is accursed." With this Scripture agrees (Deuteronomy 6:13; Galatians 4:8; Revelation 19:10). The foundation of religious worship is infinite excellence apprehended under the consideration of our first cause and chief good; it is not a sufficient reason therefore, for offering to them, that angels and saints are endowed with supernatural gifts, or procure for us many good things, unless they are the first and chief cause to us of our chief good.(2) The Papists ascribe to angels and even to saints supreme religious worship no less than these seducers here censured.(a) Prayer is an act of latria or highest worship; for where we pray we acknowledge that its object can hear, deliver, and answer (Psalm 50:15). But this is offered to saints.(b) To make a vow to another is an act of latria, due to God alone (Isaiah 19:21; Psalm 1:14). But vows are made to angels and saints.(c) To erect a house of prayer, to raise altars and offer incense upon them to any one is to pay Divine honour to him (Exodus 30:37; Matthew 21:13). But this is done wholesale by Rome to the angels and saints.
2. Paul rejects this doctrine, because(1) it proceeded from those who are accustomed rashly to invent and speak about matters unknown to them (1 Timothy 1:7). For they cannot trace angel or saint worship to the Word of God, or learn it from the example of prophets or apostles. Hence we may infer —(a) That their bold curiosity is not to be endured who intrude themselves into the determining of things, the investigation of which surpasses human wit (Romans 12:3).(b) Concerning religious matters nothing should be determined without a sure foundation, i.e., the Word of God, for whatever things we see relating to our salvation we find here. He who obtrudes anything not found there, hath not seen it but imagined it.(c) They, therefore, exercise tyranny over the Church who anathematize all who reject commandments of men for articles of faith.(2) The authors of this doctrine are puffed up with pride, and thence presume that their inventions are the dictates of truth. The fleshly mind denotes the animal man, or perspicacity, unenlightened by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Christian Age.One of the saddest incidents connected with the disastrous fire at Chicago is that so many trusted not only their goods, but their lives, to buildings that were regarded as fireproof, and that they perished together. Dr. Goodall records similar incidents connected with the great fire at Constantinople in 1831, and makes a suggestive reflection: "We, like many others, fared the worse for living in houses which were considered fire-proof. In the great burning day may no such false confidence prove our ruin."
Not holding the Head.Colossians 4:14).
(Bp. Lightfoot.)I. THE HEAD SUPPLIES ALL THINGS NECESSARY TO ITS MEMBERS. In worshipping angels the seducers diminished the dignity of Christ, for they took away from Him the prerogative of the Head, and incorrectly judged of His virtue and sufficiency. For Christ, the God Man, is Head of the Church. If they acknowledged Him as God they would seek from Him alone grace and salvation; if as man, they would not solicit angels to intercede for them, since Christ, our Elder Brother, sits continually at the right hand of God. Hence we may infer —
1. That they who are concerned about their salvation, ought never to turn their eyes from their Head in whom alone is salvation.
2. Christians are seduced to do so, and do not hold the Head, whenever they embrace new doctrines, worship, means of salvation never prescribed by Christ and His apostles (1 Timothy 6:3, 4).
II. THE HEAD BINDS AND KNITS TOGETHER THE SAME. TO ITSELF AND TO EACH OTHER.
1. The effect obtained from cleaving to Christ is that the whole body has by joints nourishment ministered.(1) The joints are(a) The Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). As that member is not united to the head which is not animated by the same essence as the head itself, neither is that Christian united to Christ who lacks His Spirit.(b) The gifts of the Spirit, e.g., faith by which as a secondary mean we are united to Christ, and receive the remission of sins and all the grace promised in the gospel (John 6:85).(2) The whole body thus adhering to Christ hath nourishment ministered. The Greeks called him "minister" who supplied all the apparatus to the leaders of the sacred dances. By a metaphor derived from this he is said "to supply the expenditure" who furnishes to another the things necessary for any particular object; and the word used by Paul signifies the doing of this copiously and abundantly by Christ, who supplies all the means of salvation. For whether we regard the grace making grateful, or grace gratuitously given, Christ abundantly supplies both to His Church by His Spirit.(a) Of that grace which has reference to justification and sanctification, Paul testifies (Romans 8:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9) that it is ministered to all His members by Christ.(b) The same with that which relates to the edification of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7, etc.; Ephesians 4:11).(3) We may here observe —(a) That in the whole body of the Church is not a single dry member, but all are watered by streams of grace flowing from the Head.(b) To adhere to the Pope as a visible head, does not constitute membership, but adherence to Christ. Therefore the ungodly are not true members, to whatever visible Church joined, unless by the joints of the Spirit and faith they are united to Christ.(c) As to doctrine and salvation the Church is supplied from its. Head, not one member from another.(d) The Papists err, who will have the Church to draw the doctrine of salvation, not alone from Christ, but from tradition; who will have her receive holiness, merit, etc., not from Christ alone, but the saints. If this be so, the text is not true.
2. By virtue of the Head, the whole body is knit together (Romans 12:5). The "bands" are the same- the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. For the same Spirit who unites us to Christ is the principal band by which we are united to each other (1 Corinthians 12:13), and after He is infused into all the ligaments of the Church, He enkindles in every one that excellent gift of charity which is also the firmest bond of cohesion. The other ties are diversities of gifts and callings emanating from the same Spirit (Ephesians 4:11, 12).
III. THE FRUIT OF THIS UNION.
1. While united to Christ by faith, and knit together by love, the whole body of the Church increaseth in faith, love, holiness, and all saving grace. This growth is said to be of God as He is the primary agent (1 Corinthians 3:6), and because it tends to His glory as the ultimate end.
2. Observe of this increase —(1) As there is a growth in the natural body in all its parts, so in the mystical body all the members increase spiritually.(2) Not every increase is approved. A member of the body is not said to increase when it is inflated with any bad humour. So the piety of a Christian man is not increased when his mind is filled with tradition and will worship, which proceed not from the Spirit, but from the empty mind of ignorance and pride.(3) Be not deceived by that incongruous mass of opinions of the Romish Church. The kingdom of the Pope may be increased, viz., by temporal things, traditions, superstitions, not by the knowledge of God and piety.
(Bp. Davenant.)(See also on chap. Colossians 1:18, and Ephesians 4:16.)
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