HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Be Careful Of Teachings That Emphasize
The Authority Of Spiritual Experiences
“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, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” (Colossians 2:18–19).
There is a problem that we should know. What is the problem Paul is warning the Colossians against?
What is the second threat Paul is warning the Colossian church about?
Paul tells them to be careful with people who delight in false humility and the worship of angels. It seems that these Gnostic teachers were going into great detail about their experiences with angels or spirits.
Is there anything wrong with angelic experiences? An angel informed Mary she would give birth to the messiah. Daniel was given great prophesies about Israel through an angel. Even Moses received the law through angels.
What was the problem with these experiences? We can discern by what Paul says in verse 19, “He has lost connection with the Head.” These teachers claimed their authority from these visions or experiences with angels.
We must be very careful of this. They followed angels and not the Head, Christ. The primary way we keep our connection with the Head is through his Word. Listen to what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16–17:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The Scripture equips the man of God for every good work. Theologians call this the sufficiency of Scripture. This doesn’t mean God will never give someone a vision or an experience, but the validity and authority of this experience will come through the Word of God and not from the experience itself.
We must be very careful of those who claim authority through experience and not the revelation of Scripture. Many cults and false religions were started by those who claimed revelation through angels or visions. Mormonism was started based on Joseph Smith’s experience with an angel. The Koran came from Muhammad’s experience with an angel. In fact, Paul warns about this in Galatians:
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8–9).
What types of experiences were the Gnostics claiming? We cannot be sure, but we have clues in the text. Paul says they had “false humility.” The Gnostics believed in many intermediaries between man and God, and Christ was just one of them.
Therefore, when Paul says “false humility,” he may have been talking about their claim to be unworthy to go to God on their own and that they needed angelic intermediaries to reach him. They claimed these experiences should be normative and were necessary for everybody.
This has shown up in many forms throughout the centuries. The most straightforward form is seen in the catholic church, where people can go to God through other saints who have died. Because they are unworthy to approach God, they go through Mary, Paul, John, or other saints who can pray for them.
This contradicts Scripture. First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Jesus said we should pray to the Father in his name (John 14:14).
This, in part, means to pray through him. He is the only intermediary between us and God, and we do not need any other person or spirit. Paul is arguing that Christ is sufficient. He is all we need. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews said:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrew 4:15–16).
The writer of Hebrews essentially says, “He is enough. Go to the Father with boldness. Christ is enough. You don’t need anybody else. He is the perfect intermediary.” We must be aware of this as other teachings arise declaring we need this prophet to reach God, or we need this experience to reach God, and that these people or experiences are the only way. No, Christ is enough. In Christ, the fullness of God dwells and in us, we have his fullness (Colossians 2:9–10). We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
Another way this is seen in contemporary Christianity is by the hyper–spirituality in some charismatic circles. Even though I personally believe Scripture nowhere forbids the possibility of God still giving visions or prophecy, these experiences do not have the authority of Scripture, and they should not be exalted as such.
Often in the charismatic movement, people come to church seeking prophecy or visions from other people instead of seeking God’s will through the Word. Again, they have lost connection to the Head.
Sometimes, the charismatic church can be very weak in Scripture because they are focusing on visions and experiences. When this happens, the church becomes very immature and weak because we only grow by being connected to the Head, which is primarily done through the Word of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:15).
I went to one charismatic church where the pastor preached a prophecy that was given to the church on the previous Sunday. The sermon was an exegesis of another person’s prophetic word. When the Word of God is demoted below any other form of revelation or even made equal, we have lost connection to the Head.
I am not saying that God will never use prophesies or visions from angels, but I am saying they are fallible and must be tested by Scripture to make sure they line up with the Head. John said, “My dear friends, brothers and sisters do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).