Tuesday, January 9th, 2024
Scripture: Col. 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
Teaching: Paul continues his argument from v. 16-17 against false teachers who promoted legalism amongst the Colossian church – teaching that salvation came and was maintained by works such as dietary restrictions and festival observances. In verse 18, Paul gives more examples of common false teachings, those being self-denial and worship of angels (which we will get into next week).
Now, denying oneself and taking up our cross to follow Jesus is something Jesus called us to do in Matthew 16:24-26. However, what Paul is describing is “delighting in self-abasement” or “self-denial.” This can mean two things: first, denying oneself as a way to merit favor with God and make oneself more righteous. We do not generate our own righteousness – we are credited Christ’s perfect righteousness by faith and we do not then add our own, by our works, to it. Our works are for the purpose of glorifying Christ, not ourselves; we follow Christ and obey Christ not to make ourselves more righteous but to let our light shine before others so that they would see our works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
Secondly, this “delighting in self-abasement” can mean a sense of false humility, being humble in public as a means of eliciting praise to oneself. There is a significant difference between a truly humble heart and one who feigns humility in order to be praised even more. It is reminiscent of Matthew 6:16 when Jesus says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” The Pharisees would make a public spectacle of their piety, feigning righteousness as a means of gaining authority and power. In this, they "receive their reward in full," meaning they get their power and praise from man, but nothing is credited to them in the eyes of God.
Takeaway: We do well to remember that Paul was formerly a Pharisee named Saul, and by his own accounts, a very prominent Pharisee. In his arguing against the false teachers in Colossae, we can see the incredible change in him. Where once he would likely have joined the other Pharisees in public displays of perceived righteousness and enforced legalism, now, he sees only Christ and espouses only Christ. His argumentation illustrates to us what completeness in Christ means but his own transformation by Christ illustrates the power of being in Christ. Everything he thought he knew, and inflated his own ego with, after coming to Christ, he considered “garbage” (Phil. 3:8) and fraudulent (Col. 2:18). The same is true for us. The focus should always be on Christ, not on our own stature as a follower of Christ.
For more on Paul's mindset towards his own life, before and after Christ, read Philippians 3.