Biblical Worship

2. False Humility: The Root of False Worship

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
According to Colossians 2 and other passages, those who invent and promote counterfeit worship "take delight in false humility."

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 2 of a 20-part series. Read part 1.

According to Colossians 2 and other passages, those who invent and promote counterfeit worship "take delight in false humility."

18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations - 21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, 22 which all concern things which perish with the using - according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:18-23)

As we mentioned in our first article, we are approaching the problem of counterfeit worship in the church, and seeking to set forth God's genuine standard for worship, by following a four-step process.

We now begin the first step in that approach, which is to understand how the warning that Paul has sounded in Colossians chapter two related to the people to whom it was written. Once we understand this, we can understand similar problems in subsequent church history, and in the present-day church.

The Danger at Colosse

What was happening in the realm of worship in the Colossian church in the middle of the first century, that presented such a danger to the individual believer and to the body of Christ? What evoked such a strong warning from the Apostle Paul?

For the answer to that question, let me call your attention once again to verse 18: "Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels." In the original Greek of verse 18, two things are connected. Paul was telling the Colossian believers this: One of the dangers of permitting man-made doctrines to enter your church is that people will follow after those who delight in false humility and delight in worship of angels.

The words "taking delight" in this verse refer to both things - false humility and the worship of angels. The words "taking delight" in the original language have the sense that someone takes pleasure in a thing because he is devoted to it. Paul is warning the Colossians of the great spiritual danger that is posed by people among them who are in fact devoted to false humility, and devoted to false worship.

True and False Humility in Worship

Paul uses the word that is translated "false humility" twice - the first time in verse 18, and again in verse 23. In verse 18, he couples false humility with false worship. He is emphasizing that the two things go hand-in-hand. In verse 23, he goes on to call such false worship what it truly is. He calls it "an appearance of wisdom" - that is, a false appearance of wisdom. The false appearance of humility in man-made doctrines of worship contributes to a false appearance of wisdom. There is a double falsehood. Furthermore, counterfeit worship also involves, as we find in verse 23, "self-imposed religion" - literally, self-made or man-made religion.

So this, according to Scripture, is the danger: Counterfeit worship is the product of un-Biblical doctrine that has a false appearance of wisdom. But the reality is that such doctrines of worship have been invented by sinful man, puffed up in pride, under the influence of Satan, contrary to the clear commands of God.

Dear friends, there can be nothing more dangerous than for sinful man, puffed up in pride, to decide that he knows better than God how the holy God of the universe is to be worshipped.

What is it that marks out this so-called humility as false humility rather than genuine humility? It is simply this: Paul tells us that the people who exhibited this kind of so-called humility took delight in it. They were not devoted to Christ; they were devoted to their outward show of humility.

What is the difference between false humility and true humility for the Christian? True humility is something that marks out the life and thinking of the true believer. The truly humble Christian is walking in submission to Christ. The truly humble Christian is thinking of Christ first, His Word first, His authority first - not himself first, not the world first. As John the Baptist put it, "He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

But this was not the kind of humility exhibited by the false teachers who were troubling the church at Colosse. What they were saying in effect was this: "We are humble, and we are proud of it." When you take delight in humility, as these people did, and as many do today, it is actually pride.

What does God's Word say about such pride? Scripture is unequivocal in condemning it. Humility is of God. Pride is of the Devil.

Proverbs 16:5 - "Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces [against God], none will go unpunished."

Proverbs 15:25 - "The Lord will destroy the house of the proud."

Habakkuk 2:4 - "Behold the proud: His soul is not upright in him. But the just shall live by his faith."

1 Peter 5:5-6 - " clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."

And again in James 4:6-10 - " 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."

In First Timothy 6:3-5, Paul speaks of such pride specifically in relation to man-made doctrines:

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

The Foundation of True Humility

In contrast to all of this, what does Scripture say about true humility - in worship and in all things? Here is the answer: True humility is rooted in the knowledge of Christ. Remember Jesus' own words, in Matthew chapter eleven:

Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

"Learn from Me," Jesus says. Literally, "be in the habit of learning from Me, and be in the habit of putting that learning into practice." Why must we learn from Christ alone? "Because," He says, "I am gentle and lowly in heart." I, Jesus, will teach you to be gentle and lowly in heart. I will teach you true humility.

The word "lowly" in the original language describes someone who has no pretense about him. No falsehood about him. What you see on the outside is what is true on the inside. That is true of Christ. It must be true of us.

The Danger We Must Flee

And so, Paul is warning the Colossian church: There are people among you who are making a pretense of an outward humility, when they are not really humble at all. Inwardly, they are proud as proud can be. They are not holding fast to Christ the Head of the Church. They are holding fast to themselves. They are holding fast to the flesh. They are, as Paul puts it, "vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds."

Here is the danger: In such a wretched and ungodly spiritual condition, these people are trying to impose counterfeit forms of worship upon the church. Forms of worship that God has not ordained. Forms of worship that God opposes. Forms of worship that are not the true worship of God. Do not have anything to do with these people or with their false worship, Paul says. "Let no man cheat you of your reward" in Christ.


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