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Colossians 2:18

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Let no man beguile you - Μηδεις ὑμας καταβραβευετω· Let no man take the prize from you which the βραβευς, brabeus, or judge in the contests, has assigned you, in consequence of your having obtained the victory. This any reader will see, is an allusion to the Olympic and Isthmian games, and to the prizes assigned to these who had obtained the victory in one or more of the contests which there took place. The Colossians had fought and conquered under the direction of Christ, and he, as the sole judge in this contest, had assigned to them the prize; the false teachers, affecting great modesty, humility, and sanctity, endeavored to turn them aside from the Gospel, and to induce them to end in the flesh who had begun in the Spirit. Against these the apostle warns them.

In a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels - This is a difficult passage, and in order to explain it, I shall examine the meaning of some of the principal terms of the original. The word θελειν, to will, signifies also to delight; and ταπειμοφροσυνη signifies not only lowliness or humility of mind, but also affliction of mind; and ταπεινουν την ψυχην, Leviticus 16:20, Leviticus 16:31, and in many other places, signifies to afflict the soul by fasting, and self-abnegation; and θρησκεια signifies reverence and modesty. Hence the whole passage has been paraphrased thus: Let no man spoil you of the prize adjudged to you, who delights in mortifying his body, and walking with the apparent modesty of an angel, affecting superior sanctity in order to gain disciples; intruding into things which he has not seen; and, notwithstanding his apparent humility, his mind is carnal, and he is puffed up with a sense of his superior knowledge and piety. It is very likely that the apostle here alludes to the Essenes, who were remarkably strict and devout, spent a principal part of their time in the contemplation of the Divine Being, abstained from all sensual gratifications, and affected to live the life of angels upon earth. With their pretensions all the apostle says here perfectly agrees, and on this one supposition the whole of the passage is plain and easy. Many have understood the passage as referring to the adoration of angels, which seems to have been practised among the Jews, who appear (from Tobit, xii. 15; Philo, in lib. de Somn.; Josephus, War. lib. ii. cap. 8, sec. 7) to have considered them as a sort of mediators between God and man; presenting the prayers of men before the throne; and being, as Philo says, μεγαλου Βασιλεως οφθαλμοι και ωτα, the eyes and ears of the great King. But this interpretation is not so likely as the foregoing.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let no man beguile you of your reward - Margin, judge against you. The word used here - καταβραβεύω katabrabeuō- occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a word which was employed with reference to the distribution of prizes at the Grecian games, and means, to give the prize against anyone, to deprive of the palm. Hence, it means to deprive of a due reward: and the sense here is, that they were to be on their guard lest the “reward” - the crown of victory to which they looked forward - should be wrested from them by the arts of others. That would be done if they should be persuaded to turn back, or to falter in the race. The only way to secure the prize was to hold on in the race which they then were running; but if they yielded to the philosophy of the Greeks, and the teachings of the Jews, they would be defrauded of this reward as certainly as a racer at the games would if the crown of victory should be unjustly awarded to another. In this case, too, as real injustice would be done, though the apostle does not say it would be in the same manner. Here it would be by art; in the case of the racer it would be by a wrong decision - but in either case the crown was lost. This exhortation has the more force from this consideration. Against an unjust judge we could have no power; but we may take care that the reward be not wrested from us by fraud.

In a voluntary humility - Margin,” being a voluntary in humility.” Tyndale renders this,” Let no man make you shoot at a wrong mark, which, after his own imagination, walketh in the humbleness of angels.” The word used here ( ταπεινοφροσύνη tapeinophrosunē) means “lowliness of mind, modesty, humbleness of deportment;” and the apostle refers, doubtless, to the spirit assumed by those against whom he would guard the Colossians - the spirit of modesty or of humble inquirers. The meaning is, that they would not announce their opinions with dogmatic certainty, but they would put on the appearance of great modesty. In this way, they would become really more dangerous - for no false teachers are so dangerous as those who assume the aspect of great humility, and who manifest great reverence for divine things. The word rendered “voluntary” here - θέλων thelōn- does not, properly, belong to the word rendered “humility.” It rather appertains to the subsequent part of the sentence, and means that the persons referred to were willing, or had pleasure in attempting, to search into the hidden and abstruse things of religion. They were desirous of appearing to do this with an humble spirit - even with the modesty of an angel - but still they had pleasure in that profound and dangerous kind of inquiry.

And worshipping of angels - θρησκείᾳ τῶν ἀγγέλων thrēskeia tōn angelōnThis does not mean, as it seems to me, that they would themselves worship angels or that they would teach others to do it for there is no reason to believe this. Certainly the Jewish teachers, whom the apostle seems to have had particularly in his eye, would not do it; nor is there any evidence that any class of false teachers would deliberately teach that angels were to be worshipped The reference is rather to the profound reverence; the spirit of lowly piety which the angels evinced, and to the fact that the teachers referred to would assume the same spirit, and were, therefore, the more dangerous. They would come professing profound regard for the great mysteries of religion, and for the incomprehensible perfections of the divinity, and would approach the subject professedly with the awful veneration which the angels have when they “look into these things;” 1 Peter 1:12. There was no bold, irreverent, or confident declamation, but the danger in the case arose from the fact that they assumed so much the aspect of modest piety; so much the appearance of the lowly devotion of angelic beings. The word rendered here “worship” - θρησκεία thrēskeia- occurs in the New Testament only here, in Acts 26:5; and James 1:26-27, in each of which places it is rendered “religion.” It means here the religion, or the spirit of humble reverence and devotion which is evinced by the angels; and this accords well with the meaning in James 1:26-27.

Intruding into those things which he hath not seen - Or inquiring into them. The word used here ( ἐμβατεύων embateuōn) means to go in, or enter; then to investigate, to inquire. It has not, properly, the meaning of intruding, or of impertinent inquiry (see Passow), and I do not see that the apostle meant to characterize the inquiry here as such. He says that it was the object of their investigations to look, with great professed modesty and reverence, into those things which are not visible to the eye of mortals. The “things” which seem here to be particularly referred to, are the abstruse questions respecting the mode of the divine subsistence; the ranks, orders, and employments of angelic beings; and the obscure doctrines relating to the divine government and plans. These questions comprised most of the subjects of inquiry in the Oriental and Grecian philosophy, and inquiries on these the apostle apprehended would tend to draw away the mind from the “simplicity that is in Christ.” Of these subjects what can be known more than is revealed?

Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind - Notwithstanding the avowed “humility,” the modesty, the angelic reverence, yet the mind was full of vain conceit, and self-confident, carnal wisdom. The two things are by no means incompatible - the men apparently most meek and modest being sometimes the most bold in their speculations, and the most reckless in regard to the great landmarks of truth. It is not so with true modesty, and real “angelic veneration,” but all this is sometimes assumed for the purpose of deceiving; and sometimes there is a native appearance of modesty which is by no means an index of the true feelings of the soul. The most meek and modest men in appearance are sometimes the most proud and reckless in their investigations of the doctrines of religion.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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. It is an insult to Christ, who is the Head of the church, to use any intercessors but him. When men let go their hold of Christ, they catch at what will stand them in no stead. The body of Christ is a growing body. And true believers cannot live in the fashions of the world. True wisdom is, to keep close to the appointments of the gospel; in entire subjection to Christ, who is the only Head of his church. Self-imposed sufferings and fastings, might have a show of uncommon spirituality and willingness for suffering, but this was not "in any honour" to God. The whole tended, in a wrong manner, to satisfy the carnal mind, by gratifying self-will, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and contempt of others. The things being such as carry not with them so much as the show of wisdom; or so faint a show that they do the soul no good, and provide not for the satisfying of the flesh. What the Lord has left indifferent, let us regard as such, and leave others to the like freedom; and remembering the passing nature of earthly things, let us seek to glorify God in the use of them.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 299-300

In this degenerate age, Satan holds control over those who depart from the right and venture upon his ground. He exercises his power upon such in an alarming manner. I was directed to these words: “Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” Some, I was shown, gratify their curiosity and tamper with the devil. They have no real faith in spiritualism and would start back with horror at the idea of being mediums. Yet they venture and place themselves in a position where Satan can exercise his power upon them. Such do not mean to enter deep into this work, but they know not what they are doing. They are venturing on the devil's ground and are tempting him to control them. This powerful destroyer considers them his lawful prey and exercises his power upon them, and that against their will. When they wish to control themselves they cannot. They yielded their minds to Satan, and he will not release his claims, but holds them captive. No power can deliver the ensnared soul but the power of God in answer to the earnest prayers of His faithful followers. 1T 299.1

The only safety now is to search for the truth as revealed in the word of God, as for hid treasure. The subjects of the Sabbath, the nature of man, and the testimony of Jesus are the great and important truths to be understood; these will prove as an anchor to hold God's people in these perilous times. But the mass of mankind despise the truths of God's word and prefer fables. 2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11: “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” 1T 300.1

The most licentious and corrupt are highly flattered by these Satanic spirits, which they believe to be the spirits of their dead friends, and they are vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds. Colossians 2:19: “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,” they deny Him who ministers strength to the body, that every member may increase with the increase of God. 1T 300.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 297

I was directed to this scripture as especially applying to modern spiritualism: Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Thousands, I was shown, have been spoiled through the philosophy of phrenology and animal magnetism, and have been driven into infidelity. If the mind commences to run in this channel, it is almost sure to lose its balance and be controlled by a demon. “Vain deceit” fills the minds of poor mortals. They think there is such power in themselves to accomplish great works that they realize no necessity of a higher power. Their principles and faith are “after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Jesus has not taught them this philosophy. Nothing of the kind can be found in His teachings. He did not direct the minds of poor mortals to themselves, to a power which they possessed. He was ever directing their minds to God, the Creator of the universe, as the source of their strength and wisdom. Special warning is given in verse 18: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” 1T 297.1

The teachers of spiritualism come in a pleasing, bewitching manner to deceive you, and if you listen to their fables you are beguiled by the enemy of righteousness and will surely lose your reward. When once the fascinating influence of the archdeceiver overcomes you, you are poisoned, and its deadly influence adulterates and destroys your faith in Christ's being the Son of God, and you cease to rely on the merits of His blood. Those deceived by this philosophy are beguiled of their reward through the deceptions of Satan. They rely upon their own merits, exercise voluntary humility, are even willing to make sacrifices, and debase themselves, and yield their minds to the belief of supreme nonsense, receiving the most absurd ideas through those whom they believe to be their dead friends. Satan has so blinded their eyes and perverted their judgment that they perceive not the evil; and they follow out the instructions purporting to be from their dead friends now angels in a higher sphere. 1T 297.2

Satan has chosen a most certain, fascinating delusion, one that is calculated to take hold of the sympathies of those who have laid their loved ones in the grave. Evil angels assume the form of these loved ones and relate incidents connected with their lives and perform acts which their friends performed while living. In this way they deceive and lead the relatives of the dead to believe that their deceased friends are angels hovering about them and communing with them. These they regard with a certain idolatry, and what they may say has greater influence over them than the word of God. These evil angels, who assume to be dead friends, will either utterly reject God's word as idle tales, or, if it suit their purpose best, will select the vital portions which testify of Christ and point out the way to heaven, and change the plain statements of the word of God to suit their own corrupt nature and ruin souls. With due attention to the word of God, all may be convinced if they will of this soul-destroying delusion. The word of God declares in positive terms that “the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun.” 1T 298.1

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Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 338.5

This is not that voluntary humility and servile self-reproach that so many seem to consider it a virtue to display. This vague mockery of humility is prompted by hearts full of pride and self-esteem. There are many who demerit themselves in words, who would be disappointed if this course did not call forth expressions of praise and appreciation from others. But the conviction of the prophet was genuine.... How could he go and speak to the people the holy requirements of Jehovah? ... RC 338.5

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 793.1

Those Who Fall Lack Healthy Mental Attitude—Those taken in Satan's snare have not yet come to a healthy mental attitude. They are dazed, self-important, self-sufficient. Oh, with what sorrow the Lord looks upon them and hears their great swelling words of vanity. They are puffed up with pride. The enemy is looking on with surprise at their being taken captive so easily.—Letter 126, 1906. 2MCP 793.1

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