on Colossians 2 :18
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.
on Colossians 2 :18
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 angelōn. This 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.
on Colossians 2 :18
2:18 Out of pretended humility, they worshipped angels, as not daring to apply immediately to God. Yet this really sprung from their being puffed up: (the constant forerunner of a fall, Prov 16:18) so far was it from being an instance of true humility.