The Peril of Mysticism (2:18-19).
Whereas Judaism is the subject of vv. 16-17, now Paul turns to pagan examples which was the foundation that grew into full- pledged Gnosticism. Johnson notes that: “the apostle’s thrust is directed against errors which appear to have originated outside the sphere of the Old Testament teaching and among the pagan errorists.” This was mystic in nature. It aims not so much at the physical (although it is not ruled out), but the mental. It was propagated on the premise of special and fuller insight into spiritual matters and truth.
This section begins with a warning: “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize” (2:18). The verb is katabrabeuo (used only here in the NT), means to decide against; to give an unfavorable decision as by an umpire. Harris says it has three possible meanings: disqualify, rob (defraud), or condemn. This verb is related to the prize. In this case, the idea of condemn seems to be the least idea, although it has a strong following. This meaning seems contrary to the statement of Paul in Romans 8:1. Both the idea of disqualify or rob better fits the context. Both the NASB and the KJV uphold the idea to rob, defraud, or beguile these believers of the prize (cf. 2 Timothy 4:7-8). It emphasizes disqualification by means of deception. Deception is a primary means used by these false teachers (cf. 2:4, 8). The warning indicates they are not to allow these false teachers to hinder or deprive them of the prize. They would be defrauded of their rewards (the prize); not their salvation (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). “Eternal life is the gift of God, not a reward for something we do,” observes Baker.
Paul gives a list of items that cause disqualification. These are described by the use of four participles: delighting…taking his stand…inflated...not holding fast.
· “By delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels” (2:18). The word by indicates means. The means is exercised by the word, delighting. The Greek word is thelo, meaning to exercise the will, be willing, inclined or disposed. The KJV translates it: voluntary. It is a present nominative participle. This indicates that the subject is the one who is acting and in a continuous manner, clearly referring to the one who is false. It is a picture of one who is continuously endeavoring to force his will on the Colossian believers. It could be translated “insist on” which fits well. The objects of their delighting is twofold:
(1) Self-abasement (humility—KJV). This speaks of their attitude. The term is somewhat ambiguous, but the context leaves little doubt that Paul is not endorsing the practice. It has negative overtones. Some argue for the ascetic practice of self-abasement as reflected in the text we are using. I think that this is one instance where that translation is misleading. It has been pointed out that humility was used as a technique in Hellenistic cultic practices as a prelude to the reception of heavenly visions. This seems to fit well into the concept of what is being taught by these false teachers by the preposition in indicating a strong conceptual link between humiliation and angel worship. In light of these factors, I favor the translation of humility or false humility over the term self-abasement.
(2) “And the worship of angels” (2:8). There has arisen a debate of this phrase as to its being a subjective genitive or an objective genitive. Those who see it as subjective see it as “worship with angels.” There is in Jewish literature the idea of worshiping with angels in one’s heavenly ascent. This makes one as a participator with heavenly beings. This being a subjective genitive is not being well accepted. It is best to taking it as an objective genitive. First, the word worship in Colossians indicates worship performed by men (cf. 2:8, 23). Second, this being used in a subjective sense point to a general sense, and gives no support for the reading here. The traditional view is preferred, which refers to “participation with angels in the worship of God in heaven features in many Jewish mystical and apocalyptic writings.” Third, the use of spiritual beings is used by Paul in this immediate context in a negative sense (cf. 2:15). O’Brien suggests that it denotes a cult of angels. While there is little evidence of worship of angels among the Jews, the reference seems to indicate Jewish and pagan elements mixed together, and a philosophy being promoted by the false teachers. There is evidence that humility and angel worship were prelude or steps to receiving revelations and/or visions among the false religions, especially mysticism. There can be no question that this must be seen in light of an attack on the superiority of Christ. Believers are not to be beguiled by such attacks. It demotes Christ.
· “Taking his stand on [visions] he has seen” (2:18). There are two textual notes that must be made about this phrase. First, the word visions is not found in any Greek text and was added by the translators. The KJV is correct in not adding it in their text. Second, some Greek text have the not in it— “taking a stand of what he has not seen” (KJV). The word is not found in four of the earliest manuscripts and a number of later ones. Terry says,
The word is missing from early manuscripts of both the Alexandrian and Western types of ancient text. Perhaps it was added by copyists under the influence of the word "vainly."
The word visions is an interpretation of the text, not a reading of the text. It should not be added to the text. The word not is debatable, but most favor omitting it as well. If one omits it or keeps it does affect the meaning of the text.
Many consider the key to understanding this verse are the words “taking a stand” which is one word in the Greek: embateuo (used only here in the NT). It means to step into or upon, investigate; to search. It has been translated; “taking a stand;” “intruding;” “entering;” “going on in detail;” to name a few. Those who omit the word not, tend to take it as visionary experiences entered into while worshiping angels. Those who do not omit the word seem to take in the sense a non-visionary experience. If it is omitted I agree with Eadie who writes:
If the negative be omitted, the clause must be an ironical description. The words “which he has seen,” will mean, visions which he professes or imagines to have seen—visions which are the result of a morbid imagination or a distempered brain.
Therefore, with or without the word, the phrase basically means the same thing—it speaks of distorted and likely imaginary or ecstatic visions, which is only reported to be true by the false teacher. The claimed to have penetrated behind the curtain of the unseen, then uses it as a means of seduction. He cons them into looking at him as extra spiritual, a revealer of secrets. However, it is just the product of a distorted mind.
· This is confirmed by the last phrase: “inflated without cause by his fleshly mind” (2:18). The word inflated is the Greek word physioo meaning to inflate or puff up with pride, to be vain, proud, or arrogant. It speaks of excess. Eadie comments: “The heretic was blown up with his delusion.” The KJV translates it: “vainly puffed up.” This “points to the baseless assertions of the false teachers who claim superior visionary experience while not being able to experience anything but the illusions.” This is nothing but the fleshly or carnal mind (lit. mind of his flesh) at work. It is the object of means. The mind succumbed to the carnal principle. His experience was a product of his own degenerate mind which is controlled by the flesh; the old sin nature. His claims are without merit.
· “And not holding to the head” (2:19) is the fourth participle phrase. The participle used by Paul is the word krateo, meaning to adhere, to forcefully possess, to cleave, or to grasp. It is used by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:15 in the sense of adhere to a certain teaching. It is used with the negative, meaning they were not holding to the head. This is a critical flaw of the false teaching and teacher. Paul goes on to point out that this connection is critical for growth of the believer. Headship depicts that of authority. It is used in different ways: being the head of every person (1 Cor. 11:3), the head of rulers (Col. 2:10), and the head of the church, the body of Christ. Here it refers to Christ as head of head of the body of Christ, the church. This is clear from the terms used in the text: “from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grow with growth which is from God” (cf. Eph. 3:15). The word whom refers back to Christ, who is the head (2:17). The focus here is a Christological one, not an ecclesiological one. Christ is the head and the church is unified under the head as the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12-16; Eph. 3:1-14). We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn away from Christ, which is what the false teachers are trying to do to these believers. It is as we hold firm to Christ that God produces growth in the body. Growth is an accusative of content. Growth in Christ is the object to be provided by God, who is its source. The channels of this growth are the joints and ligaments, no doubt a metaphor for individual believers in the church. Christian growth does not come outside of Christ through whom God grows His church, the body of Christ. Campbell sums up the process well:
This growing is accomplished through the different functions of the members of His Body; this growing is the actual outworking of God’s sovereign purpose for the Body of Christ, the Church.
To be continued…
 S. Lewis Johnson Jr, “The Paralysis of Legalism,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA, April 1963, 113.
 Mystic relates to mysteries or esoteric rites based upon the belief of direct knowledge from a divine power, God or his messenger.
 Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 106.
 O’Brien; Moo; Pao; to name a few.
 Baker, UNDERSTANDING THE BODY OF CHRIST, 137.
 Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 225
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 188.
 Ibid, 188.
 O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 142.
 Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 107.
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 189. Dunn, NIGTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 180-182.
 Poa, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHIEMON, 189.
 Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 227.
 O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 143.
 Terry, STUDENTS GUIDE TO NEW TESTAMENT TEXTUAL VARIANTS, Colossians 2:18, electronic media, n.p. Also see Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 108-109.
 Eadie, COLOSSIANS, 187-188.
 Ibid, 190.
 Pao, ZECNT: COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 191
 Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 115.