2:18-23 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.
18. beguile—Translate, "Defraud you of your prize," literally, "to adjudge a prize out of hostility away from him who deserves it" [Trench]. "To be umpire in a contest to the detriment of one." This defrauding of their prize the Colossians would suffer, by letting any self-constituted arbitrator or judge (that is, false teacher) draw them away from Christ," the righteous Judge" and Awarder of the prize (2Ti 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1Pe 5:4), to angel-worship.
in a voluntary humility—So "will-worship" (Col 2:23). Literally, "Delighting ([Wahl]) in humility"; loving (so the Greek is translated, Mr 12:38, "love to go in long clothing") to indulge himself in a humility of his own imposing: a volunteer in humility [Dallæus]. Not as Alford, "Let no one of purpose defraud you," &c. Not as Grotius, "If he ever so much wish" (to defraud you). For the participle "wishing" or "delighting," is one of the series, and stands in the same category as "intruding," "puffed up," "not holding"; and the self-pleasing implied in it stands in happy contrast to the (mock) humility with which it seems to me, therefore, to be connected. His "humility," so called, is a pleasing of self: thus it stands in parallelism to "his fleshly mind" (its real name, though he styles it "humility"), as "wishing" or "delighting" does to "puffed up." The Greek for "humility" is literally, "lowliness of mind," which forms a clearer parallel to "puffed up by his fleshly mind." Under pretext of humility, as if they durst not come directly to God and Christ (like the modern Church of Rome), they invoked angels: as Judaizers, they justified this on the ground that the law was given by angels. This error continued long in Phrygia (where Colosse and Laodicea were), so that the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 360) expressly framed its thirty-fifth canon against the "Angelici" (as Augustine [Heresies, 39], calls them) or "invokers of angels." Even as late as Theodoret's time, there were oratories to Michael the archangel. The modern Greeks have a legend that Michael opened a chasm to draw off an inundation threatening the Colossian Christians. Once men admit the inferior powers to share invocation with the Supreme, the former gradually engrosses all our serious worship, almost to the exclusion of the latter; thus the heathen, beginning with adding the worship of other deities to that of the Supreme, ended with ceasing to worship Him at all. Nor does it signify much, whether we regard such as directly controlling us (the pagan view), or as only influencing the Supreme in our behalf (the Church of Rome's view); because he from whom I expect happiness or misery, becomes the uppermost object in my mind, whether he give, or only procure it [Cautions for Times]. Scripture opposes the idea of "patrons" or "intercessors" (1Ti 2:5, 6). True Christian humility joins consciousness of utter personal demerit, with a sense of participation in the divine life through Christ, and in the dignity of our adoption by God. Without the latter being realized, a false self-humiliation results, which displays itself in ceremonies and ascetic self-abasement (Col 2:23), which after all is but spiritual pride under the mock guise of humility. Contrast "glorying in the Lord" (1Co 1:31).
intruding into … things which he hath not seen—So very old manuscripts and Vulgate and Origen read. But the oldest manuscripts and Lucifer omit "not"; then translate, "haughtily treading on ('Standing on' [Alford]) the things which he hath seen." Tregelles refers this to fancied visions of angels. But if Paul had meant a fancied seeing, he would have used some qualifying word, as, "which he seemed to see," not "which he hath seen." Plainly the things were actually seen by him, whether of demoniacal origination (1Sa 28:11-20), or phenomena resulting from natural causation, mistaken by him as if supernatural. Paul, not stopping to discuss the nature of the things so seen, fixes on the radical error, the tendency of such a one in all this to walk by SENSE (namely, what he haughtily prides himself on having SEEN), rather than by FAITH in the UNSEEN "Head" (Col 2:19; compare Joh 20:29; 2Co 5:7; Heb 11:1). Thus is the parallelism, "vainly puffed up" answers to "haughtily treading on," or "setting his foot on"; "his fleshly mind" answers to the things which he hath seen," since his fleshliness betrays itself in priding himself on what he hath seen, rather than on the unseen objects of faith. That the things seen may have been of demoniacal origination, appears from 1Ti 4:1, "Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (Greek, "demons"). A warning to modern spiritualists.
puffed up—implying that the previous so called "humility" (Greek, "lowliness of mind") was really a "puffing up."
fleshly mind—Greek, "By the mind of his own flesh." The flesh, or sensuous principle, is the fountain head whence his mind draws its craving after religious objects of sight, instead of, in true humility as a member, "holding fast the (unseen) Head."