I am having some trouble understanding the meaning of "false humility" in Colossians. Also I am trying to understand the concept of self-imposed worship, and just what exactly was going on in the Colossian church. -- Joshua Lopez

The passage in question reads, "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify 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. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence" (Colossians 2:18-23).

To understand what is going on, you have to know something about Gnosticism. Colosse apparently was home to Gnostic teachers. Gnostics were often ascetics (self-imposed worship and harsh treatment of the body). As intellectual elitists, they took great pride in spiritual experiences ("great detail," "unspiritual mind"). These Gnostics venerated angels ("worship of angels"). What I am saying is that, without knowledge of the specific set of heresies besetting the Colossian church, you cannot understand the letter. Sure, you can pick up a few great insights, but you will never be able to understand why Paul penned it, what situation he was dealing with, or the various nuances of his various lines of reasoning.

I would encourage you to learn more about Gnosticism--though not to become a Gnostic! Without a fundamental understanding of this common first and second century heresy, it's not only Colossians that is a mystery; 1 John, 2 John, much of the gospel of John, 1 Timothy, and several other portions of the New Testament are lost!

In the meantime, while you are reading Bible dictionaries and commentaries, scouring websites and consulting with Christians are familiar with Gnosticism, do your best to strive to avoid what Paul in Colossians 2 condemns: man-made rules, which can easily be supported with logic and tradition, but lack a true biblical basis; delight in boasting of one's spiritual experiences and exploits, which feeds the ego, completely against the spirit of John 3:30; and the entire culture of "performance theology" that is obsessed with measuring, competing, and comparing.

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