Saturday, June 14, at EXP, we started a new series in Hebrews. Below is a brief examination of Colossians 2:18 as a follow up to the topic of “Jesus: Superior to Angels.”
Colossians 2:18 (NIV) – Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels diqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.
Theologians have given several meanings to the phrase “worship of angels.” One or quite possibly all have merit. In the day of this writing, Jews had a high regard for angels. Galatians 4:14 gives evidence of this fact. Paul says, “… you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel…” We see that angels were held in high esteem. However, some evidently esteemed them too highly.
The phrase “worship of angels” could mean:
1) People were praying to angels. Some began to pray to angels even though an official prohibition had been mandated. Since Jews saw angels as mediators between themselves and God, some went from praying to God, to praying to God through angels, to praying to angels. This idea later grew into a prayer habit for some of praying to someone other than God. One example – praying to saints or praying to Mary.
2) A cult or religion had begun or was in the formative stages of development. Obviously righteous Jews would not worship angels nor would the teachers of the Law recommend angel worship. However as in any sect, offshoots arise. Evidence exists that seems to suggest such a group was forming or had formed.
3) The writer was speaking to legalism. The Jews believed that the giving of the Law was mediated by angels. Evidence in scripture seems to agree with the idea that angels were in some way involved in the giving of the Law. Acts 7:53, “you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” Galatians 3:19b, “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” Hebrews 2:2 speaks of “the message spoken by angels” being binding. This seems to be a reference to the law. In this view, the writer is encouraging the reader not to succumb to the chains of legalism and the law.
I believe all of these views have merit. However, as in all passages involving angels, the angels are not the focus or the point. The point of Colossians 2:18 is for one to be careful who they follow and to be sure one has the right spirit. We are not to be fooled by those who pronounce themselves as on a higher spiritual plane than all others. In this first century, men claimed to have experiences that no one else has had; that they had a unique pipeline to God; that they had a special understanding of scripture not available to others; and that they could see and had seen “things” that no one else could see.
The purpose of this passage is to tell the readers not to be like these men. Do not be full of false humility. Do not become puffed up with idle notions. (“Idle notions” means things that are good for nothing; useless, vain.) Men then, and men today, profess to have insight into the spiritual realms. Claims of seeing and talking to angels and even Jesus are given in an attempt to convince others of their spiritual superiority, resulting in people “worshiping” them, or “blessing” them with money. Beware of such people is the writer’s admonition. People who are genuinely intimate with God will be humble not proud. They will lift up others rather than themselves. We should not worship angels. They are simply God’s messengers. However, more importantly, we should not be fooled by those who pretend to worship God but in reality only worship themselves.