|"The Mystical Wave of Knowledge"|
The false teaching was Mysticism.
We don't know what the Colossians wrote to Paul to prompt his reply, which is the Book of Colossians, but we can see Paul's fervency in his writing when he replied.
When combating false teaching it's important to remain focused on Christ. Paul's emphasis on Christ in Colossians resulted on a stupendous treatise on Christology. The first part of the short book focuses on who Jesus is and what He has done. The latter half focuses on how we are to live in light of this knowledge.
Mysticism is obviously an old problem, since Paul was dealing with it in Colossians. It is a scheme that is alive and well today, even in the most conservative denominations of the faith, which I'll show in a moment.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines Mysticism as
The term ‘mysticism,’ comes from the Greek word meaning “to conceal.” In the Hellenistic world, ‘mystical’ referred to “secret” religious rituals.Mysticism says "I have had a certain supernatural experience." This inexplicable experience can be a dream, out of body travel, visions, automatic writing, or audible speakings from beyond the veil. Eventually "Mystical Theology" came to the fore, and these experiences were codified into a "direct experience of the divine" for the express purpose of "a larger undertaking aimed at human transformation."
If you have ever heard someone say you can "achieve different levels" or attain "a higher plane of existence", they are a Mystic.
Mysticism and its sister false teaching, Gnosticism, are sometimes entwined. CARM.org says,
The word "gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "knowledge." There were many groups that were Gnostic and it isn't possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines. However, generally speaking, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis).Some of the heretics who claimed to have had Mystical experiences would base teachings on them and circulate among Christians saying they have gained secret insights through having had these experiences and now wish to teach them. The implication is that Christians were missing out in their "higher level" or "secret wisdom" if they didn't partake. Mysticism/Gnosticism is actually a form of spiritual intimidation. MacArthur,
Now the heretics were claiming this. They were saying, "we have a higher and a broader and a deeper and a greater, and a mystical union with God. We've obtained a humility and a piety that is unlike anything you have experienced. We have connected ourselves with the eons and the demigods and the subgods, and we've climbed the ladder to the presence of the one true deity." You hear some of that palaver don't you now and then, from people, even today.We do hear this palaver today, more and more. I'll give you some examples of people claiming to have had a supernatural experience, through which, they plan to "teach" a deeper biblical truth. Of course there is no truth apart from the Bible, which is where we go to seek it. But they are saying it anyway. You notice I am not posting the more flagrant heretics which one would expect to purvey their "experience" into money, the usual cadre of snake oil salesmen like Jesse DuPlantis, Benny Hinn, Heide Baker, etc. These are Southern Baptist Convention-approved Mystics.
Don Piper, who "went to heaven":
You notice the photo-advertisement for his speaking engagement promises that Mr Piper possesses "unique insight" into heaven. Unique means "existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: 2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable". There it claims that in all of Christendom, Piper alone has this insight, but he is going to share it with you.
Beth Moore. These are transcriptions from two different video clips of her "teachings" which have since been scrubbed from the Internet. Source for the transcription is here.
And tonight I am gonna do my absolute best to illustrate to you something that God showed me sitting out on the back porch. He put a picture I've explained to you before I'm a very visual person. So he speaks to me very often in putting a picture in my head and it was as if I was raised up, looking down on a community as I saw the church in that particular dimension. Certainly not all dimensions, not even many, but in what we will discuss tonight the church as Jesus sees it in a particular dimension."
What God began to say to me about five years ago and I'm telling you it is in me on such a trek with him that my head is still whirling over it. He began to say to me, 'I'm gonna say something right now, Beth. And boy you write this one down. And you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it. My bride is paralyzed by unbelief. My bride is paralyzed by unbelief.' And he said, 'Starting with you.' Amen.You see that Moore claims Jesus told her something and gave her a command to turn around and teach it "as often as I give you utterance to say it." Like Don Piper, Moore is claiming to have had a vision and an audible personalized command directly from Jesus outside of the Bible, and is going to teach this new truth because you do not have this truth and there is no way to obtain this truth unless Moore or Piper teaches it.
Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling. This woman had said that she had heard of two mystics (who turned out to be Catholic) in the 1930s who had received personal revelation from God and wrote these revelations down in a book titled God Calling. Young then said,
The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. (Source Challies)This is automatic writing, an ancient occult practice whereupon a seeker makes his mind and body available to any entity from beyond the veil and allows the entity to take over their body and mind and the person automatically writes what "it" wants to express. The thoughts are not the person's, but the supernatural entity's. Beth Moore claims to have had this experience when an entity, or a force as she called it, wrote the book "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things" for her.
You notice Young said she had heard of these other women who had gained special insights directly from God, and wondered "If I too could receive messages". This is part of the process, someone claims to have been given a special revelation which you do not possess. You begin to feel excluded, unspecial, marginalized, disqualified. "Why did they receive this and I did not?" you wonder. "Can I, too, have this special relationship?" It is what Gnostics prey on.
There are many more examples of today's Christian claiming to have heard a voice, a whisper, a dream, a vision. I do not need to list them all. Paul said in Colossians 2:18,
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,
Gill's Exposition says,
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind; judging of things not according to the word of God, and with a spiritual judgment, and according to a spiritual sense and experience, but according to his own carnal reason, and the vanity of his mind; being puffed and swelled with an high opinion of himself, of his great parts and abilities, of his knowledge of things above others, and of his capacity to penetrate into, and find out things which were not seen and known by others: this shows that his humility was forced, and only in outward appearance, and was not true and genuine,These heretics might seem humble, but they actually have a puffed up (conceited) fleshly mind. This is a fact. It means Beth Moore is conceited, Don Piper is puffed up, and Sarah Young had an unreasoning mind.
If the above was a review for previous readers of this blog or a quick overview to newcomers, there is a second part to the verse that is important to note. Besides simply explaining what Colossian Mysticism and Gnosticism was, how it is rampant today, and who is practicing it; we must talk about disqualification.
Paul began is admonition to the Colossians by saying "Let no one disqualify you..." What does this mean?
What is he saying? Don't let anybody tell you, you are disqualified from obtaining the prize of spirituality, because you haven't reached the level of self abasement. You haven't understood the worship of angels; you haven't had the right visions. All they are is inflated by their own fleshly minds. And the one thing they are not doing is holding fast to the head, and who is the head? Christ. You see, they've said, it's Christ, plus my visions, plus my experiences with the angels, plus my deeper experience, my higher experience. The first one is Christ plus rules; the second one is Christ plus mystical experience.
Don't let them intimidate you by what you haven't experienced and make you think that you don't really know God at all, because you have never had any of those experiences. (source)In other words, do not be intimidated. I'll finish with a verse from Colossians 1:12b. Don't let anyone disqualify you through intimidation, that you haven't had these supernatural experiences and thus are lesser. Why? Because of this eternal truth:
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
You are already having a supernatural experiences that surpass understanding. You have the Holy Spirit in you. You pray to God and He hears. You are being grown in sanctification. You experience His common grace and His sanctifying grace every day. You are the beneficiary of His providence. Do you "yearn for more" as Sarah Young complained? You already have the best, the top, the highest kind, number, and quality of supernatural experiences. Anything other than the experiences given to you described by scripture are lesser, fleshly, and leads to puffed up conceit. Don't let anyone disqualify you, because you have been qualified by the God of the Universe, Yahweh Himself.
S. Lewis Johnson sermon/transcript "A Defense of Christian Liberty"