Colossians 2:17-23: Marks of False Religion
2. Religion of Pride 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not* seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
“let no one cheat you “ To embrace this Gnostic faith was to forsake what Christ had done for the Church.
-”worship of angels” The Gnostics of Colossae had incorporated the Jewish belief in angels as part of the emanations that would bring them back to God. This is unnecessary because Christ is the fullness and angels are merely His ministers. Angels no doubt assist in our salvation, in that they protect us and pray for us, but they are not the mediator between God and man.
- Pride - Within this heresy and all heresies and corruptions of the truth there is an element of pride. There is a sense that man can peer into the mind of God, grasp God’s mysteries and save oneself. Rather than boldly accepting the faith which had been delivered to them by Paul and his missionaries, they felt it necessary to construct their own faith from their “fleshy mind”. It is an act of humility to submit to the confines of the faith once delivered to the saints. The Fathers of the church not only held to the faith delivered out of humility but in order to protect the way of salvation.
3. Rejection of Christ 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
- In holding onto their own understanding, the heretics reject Christ. They are saying that Christ is not the fullness of God and not all in all. To cut yourself off from the fullness of Christ is to remove yourself from the source of life. We are the branches and He is the vine (John 15).
D. Truth to Embrace 20 Therefore,* if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-- 21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," 22 which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
- “therefore if you have died” This is baptismal imagery which explores the content of the mystery. The Christian is buried in baptism and is united with the death of Christ through this Holy mystery. As a result of this union with Christ in death, man has a different relationship with the world. Man’s relationship with God is now through faith and not legalism. The Christian life is based on being transformed by dwelling in the presence of God. It is the experience of the life of God that transforms man and not upholding of vain legal requirements.
These legal regulations have “an appearance of wisdom”, but the danger of pride is present because they are self-imposed and do not flow organically from the presence of God or the life of the Church. However, because these false actions are religious in appearance they create a false humility in the participant, but sadly there is no value “against the indulgence of the flesh”.
“The indulgence of the flesh” This is one of the great struggles of the Christian life spoken of in Scripture. Only those actions that keep one in the presence and life of the Holy Trinity will give victory over these indulgences. The ironic fact for the Gnostics is that their strictness gives the appearance of triumph, but because it “self-imposed” and based on the “doctrines of men” it pulls one away from God rather toward Him.