“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, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—’Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch‘ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:18-23
Paul addresses several errors in the Church at Colossae including asceticism and mysticism. Asceticism is self-abasement, the practice of a false humility, denying oneself with the idea that this will gain merit with God. This would include actions such as severe treatment to the body or unscriptural fasting to impress God with legalistic rules. Rather than a legalistic approach to a spiritual life, God calls us to die to ourselves and and let Christ live in us with our minds set on things above and not on earth (Colossians 3:2-3).
Colossians mysticism seems to have been mainly gnostic and pagan. This included the worship of angels and visions of some superior experience. This is speaking of humanly generated ideas that give a false sense of pride. Today, with the inspired Scriptures available to us and the Holy Spirit to led us into all Truth (John 16:13), we have no need of extra-Biblical visions. We can be “equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16) with the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment as we study the Scriptures.
In Tom Constable’s”Expository Notes on the Bible”, related to these errors, he gives the following example. “Precedent for this approach to spirituality in Judaism [that Paul was countering in this epistle] is seen in a movement that came to be known as ‘Merkabah mysticism.’ The Merkabah refers to Ezekiel 1 and the throne chariot of God that Ezekiel saw. This teaching spoke of days of fasting to prepare for a journey to the heavens to see God and have a vision of Him and His angelic host in worship (Philo, Die Somniis 1.33-37; De Vita Mosis 2.67-70; 1QH 6:13; 1 Enoch 14:8–25; 2 Baruch 21:7–10; Apocalypse of Abraham 9:1–10; 19:1–9; Ascension of Isaiah 7:37; 8:17; 9:28, 31, 33). One could withdraw and eventually go directly into God’s presence. Thus this false teaching emphasized the humility of ascetic practice, visions, the rigors of devotion, treating the body harshly, and rules about what should not be eaten or what days should be observed (2:16–23). All this activity was aimed to help prepare individuals for the experience that took them beyond what Jesus had already provided, so they could see God and His angels in heaven.”
We have such wonderful freedom in Christ. If we will walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). Christ can accomplish what no asceticism can. Further, we have all Truth revealed to us in Scripture necessary to equip us for every good work. Let us not be disqualified from the prize that God gives those who run the race well.