People influence us because we allow them to do so. They may appear wise and spiritual, and we may be fascinated by their stories and ideas, but how do we know if what they are saying is true? The Early Church was at risk from people who seemed to be ‘spiritual’, but were false. Some of these were legalistic religionists (Colossians 2:16-17) and others, as in today's passage, were mystics. They had bought into a pagan mystery religion based on a belief in the power of angels. They were spiritually false because they had lost connection with Jesus Christ, even though they were still in the church.
Such people can be recognised by six characteristics. Firstly, they make a show of being humble and eager to listen, but they are not servant-hearted. Secondly, they are fascinated by angels and worship them, which the Bible forbids (Revelation 22:8-9). Thirdly, they are guided by their personal experience and their own feelings rather than by the Word of God. Fourthly, they boast of their revelations and consider themselves spiritually superior, having a knowledge about spiritual things that is not accessible to the uninitiated. Fifthly, their spiritual life is not rooted exclusively in Jesus Christ. Sixthly, they inhibit the true growth of the church by dividing people rather than uniting them in Christ.
Such people may sincerely believe what they teach, but they have no biblical authority. They are deluded, and they also lead others away from trusting in Christ alone. Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), so it is not surprising that he distracts believers into believing that angels are more powerfully immediate than Christ Himself.
The church still needs to beware of such people. Saving faith and true connection with God depends upon Christ alone. Without trusting Him alone, there can be no organic growth or maturity in the church. This passage has been preserved so that we will not be deceived by apparently 'super-spiritual' people (1 John 4:1-3). The only key to spiritual wisdom is to be connected to the Lord Jesus Christ. Where He is central, the church will grow with every member functioning well. Although we may not want to offend people by rejecting what they say, it is much more important to not offend Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all, so He must be superior to everything and central to our faith.
© Dr Paul Adams