Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels…
I. THE WARNING.
1. "Let no man rob you of your prize." The metaphor is that of the race or wrestling ground; the judge is Christ, the reward is the crown, not of fading bay leaves, but of sprays from the "tree of life" which dower with blessedness the brows round which they are wreathed. The tendency of the heresy is to rob them of this. No names were mentioned, but the portrait of the robber is drawn with four rapid but accurate strokes of the pencil.
(1) "Delighting in humility and the worshipping of angels" —
(a) The humility has not a genuine ring about it. Self-conscious humility in which a man takes delight is not the real thing. A man who knows that he is humble and is self-complacent about it, glancing out of the corners of his downcast eyes at any mirror where he can see himself, is not humble at all. "The devil's darling vice is the pride that apes humility."(b) So very humble were these people that they would not venture to pray to God. The utmost they could do was to lay hold of the lowest link of a long chain of angel mediators in hope that the vibration might run upwards through all the links, and perhaps reach the throne at last. Such fantastic abasement which would not take God at His word, nor draw near to Him through Christ, was the very height of pride.
(2) "Dwelling in the things he hath seen," i.e., by visions, etc. The charge against the false teachers was of "walking in a vain show "of unreal imaginations.
(3) "Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." The self-conscious humility was only skin deep, and covered the utmost intellectual arrogance. The false teacher was like a blown bladder, dropsical from conceit of "intellectual ability" which was after all only the instrument of the flesh, the sinful self. Of course, such could have no grip of Christ, from whom such tempers were sure to detach.
(4) Therefore, the damning indictment closes with "not holding the head."
2. The special forms of these errors are gone; but the tendencies which underlay them are as rampant as ever.
(1) The worship of angels is dead, but we are often tempted to think that we are too sinful to claim our portion of the promises. The spurious humility is by no means out of date, which knows better than God whether He can forgive, and grasps at others as well as Christ, the one Mediator.
(2) We do not see visions and dream dreams, except that here and there some one is led astray by "spiritualism," but plenty of us attach more importance to our speculations than to the clear revelation of God in Christ. The "unseen world" has for many an unwholesome attraction. The Gnostic spirit is still among us which despises the foundation truths of the gospel as milk for babes, and values its baseless artificial speculations about subordinate matters which are unrevealed because they are subordinate, and fascinating to some minds because unrevealed, far above the truths which are clear because they are vital, and inspired because clear.
(3) And a swollen self-conceit is, of all things, the most certain to keep a man away from Christ. We must feel our utter helplessness and need before we shall lay hold of Him; and whatever slackens our hold of Christ tends to deprive us of the final prize. "Hold fast that thou hast; let no man take thy crown."
II. THE SOURCE AND MANNER OF ALL TRUE GROWTH is set forth in order to enforce the warning and to emphasize the need of holding the head.
1. Christ is not merely represented as supreme and sovereign, but as the source of spiritual life.
2. That life which flows through the head is diffused through the whole body by the various and harmonious action of all the parts. The body is "supplied and knit together," i.e., the functions of nutrition and compaction into a whole are performed by the "joints and bands," in which last word are included muscles, nerves, tendons. Their action is the condition of growth, but the Head is the source of all. Churches have been bound together by other bonds, such as creeds, polity, nationality; but an external bond is only like a rope round a bundle of faggots.
3. The blessed results of supply and unity are effected through the action of the various parts. If each organ is in healthy action the body grows. There is diversity in offices; the same life is light in the eyes, beauty in the cheek, strength in the hand, thought in the brain. The effect of Christianity is to heighten individuality, and to give to each man his own proper "gift from God." The perfect light is the blending of all colours.
4. A community where each member thus holds firmly by the Head will increase with the increase of God. There is an increase not of God. These heretical teachers were swollen with dropsical self-conceit. The individual may increase in apparent knowledge, in volubility, in visions and speculations, in so-called Christian work; the Church may increase in members, wealth, influence, etc., and it may not be sound growth, but proud flesh that needs the knife.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,