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Colossians 2:18

ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
NIV Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
NASB Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
CSB Let no one condemn you by delighting in ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm. Such people are inflated by empty notions of their unspiritual mind.
NLT Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud,
KJV 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,

What does Colossians 2:18 mean?

Paul switches to an athletic reference in this verse, stating, "Let no one disqualify you." In athletics, outside judges, who are not themselves running, can declare certain people unfit or unable to compete, because they break some particular rule. Paul's point here is not that such things are inherently wrong, but simply that those who point to the Old Testament law as a reason to "disqualify" Christian believers are mistaken. His statement is in the context of the rules and rituals mentioned a few verses earlier.

While the Old Testament laws are not necessarily binding, there are moral and spiritual boundaries which Christians need to mind. Violating these will, in effect, "disqualify" a person from getting the prize there are seeking to win through their efforts. Paul personally worked hard to stay faithful and not disqualify himself from ministry (1 Corinthians 9:27). In 2 Timothy 3:8, he mentioned two men "disqualified regarding the faith." These are true spiritual failings, not merely a lack of obedience to human rules.

Paul encourages the Colossian Christians not to fall for the false teachings of those who held to mystical practices that were in contrast with God's truth. Paul's list includes four areas used as distractions from true Christian living, as promoted by false teachers.

First, Paul warns against "asceticism," a term referring to self-denial. The general idea includes extreme practices which appear noble but are not required by God, such as a vow of silence, prolonged fasting, or lifelong celibacy. These practices are not always wrong, but they are in no way requirements to follow Christ. Gnosticism, an early heresy confronting Christians, taught that the body was evil, and so all physical desires needed to be squelched.

Second, Paul notes the "worship of angels." Jesus taught that we are to worship God alone (Matthew 4:10). This deception goes along with Paul's warning not to be taken in by deceptive arguments (Colossians 2:8). Many of the false teachers in this day taught that mysticism and philosophy were the keys to knowledge, and that special visions from angels were a key part of truth. This, as Paul states clearly, is not true.

Third, Paul notes mystical visions. Interestingly, visions themselves are not really what Paul refutes here. Paul personally experienced visions. Rather, he seems to be rejecting the use of visions as a way to attract attention to one's self. Or, as a way to claim special knowledge, hence the reference to details.

Fourth, Paul noted those who let their deceptive arguments and personal visions go to their heads. Pride was at the root of those who promoted mystical or ascetic teachings. In fact, all four of these errors require a certain level of egotism; they all give the mystic, or the ascetic, or the guru a reason to claim that they are better than others as a result of their personal ability. That, however, is not the Christian way.
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