In Col 2:18-23, Paul warns against will worship. He warned us against being spoiled by philosophy and vain deceit in Col 2:8, against being judged by the law in Col 2:16, and against being beguiled by will worship in Col 2:18-23. Will worship is the worship of your own self-will. You can be beguiled into this by men who neglect their bodies through their own will power. Of course, they will cloak their will worship in religious garb to make it look spiritual; but it is, nevertheless, the work of carnal men. A perfect example is the Pharisee in Lk 18:9-12. Did you notice that this parable was spoken “unto certain which trusted in themselves?” He wasn’t trusting in God.
Will worship manifests:
A vainly puffed up fleshly mind – Col 2:18 – will worship is carnal and it will beguile you of your reward. For Christians, our strength to combat the lusts of the flesh comes from the Spirit of God, Gal 5:16-17. We “through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body,” Rom 8:13. We don’t rely upon ourselves to keep the flesh in check. However, if you are deceived by men into relying upon their carnal means to neglect your body, you’ll receive no reward for this because it was you, not the Spirit, who did it.
Some Christians have been beguiled into bringing their bodies into subjection by Buddhism, for example. This is the result of new age teachings. Much of these are picked up in college. All religions offer some strict means by which the flesh can be neglected. Roman Catholics observe Lent and prohibitions against meat. Seventh-day Adventists observe Jewish practices concerning unclean meats. This voluntary humility puffs up the fleshly mind of those who do these things. You can be as squeaky clean as your flesh can possibly be; but if you aren’t saved, you’ll go straight to hell when you die.
Angels are often worshipped in connection with will worship because these apparitions are the “spiritual” revelation behind the religious practices. Joseph Smith’s doctrines of the Mormon church and Mohammed’s doctrines in Islam are good examples. Each of them certainly intruded “into those things which he hath not seen.” Had they really “seen” the source of their vision, they would have seen an evil spirit or the devil.
A lost man without Christ – Col 2:19 – men who would beguile you to follow their carnal ordinances of will worship to neglect your body are “not holding the Head.” They aren’t saved. So, why would you follow them? Yet some Christians have.
The best place for you to grow in Christ is among other Christians “having nourishment ministered, and knit together.” In that place, the body “increaseth with the increase of God.” Stay faithfully involved in your Bible believing, Bible preaching, Bible teaching local church. And if you aren’t in one of these, then ask God to lead you to the one in which he wants to set you.
Commandments and doctrines of men – Col 2:20-22 – when we were saved, we were baptized by the Spirit into the death of Christ, Ron 6:3. “Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,” Rom 6:6. That’s why Paul asked “if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances… after the commandments and doctrines of men?” The body of sin is destroyed through death. The commandments of men are for an old man that’s alive, not dead. Paul called these commandments “doctrines of devils” in 1 Tim 4:3. I fear that many of the “regulations” in legalistic churches are the result of will worship. The commandments and doctrines of men cannot save your soul; they cannot fill you with the Spirit of God.
A shew of wisdom in neglecting the body – Col 2:23 – when you see well mannered, obedient people following the commandments and doctrines of men, you see “indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body.” They have put down the flesh and appear so pious. They are not honoring the flesh in any way. The way Paul used “honour” in the last part of v.23 is like he did in 1 Cor 12:23-24. These men are not satisfying the flesh. The fanatics in 1 Ki 18:26-28 are a good example of men who neglect their bodies and don’t satisfy their flesh. And they were just as lost as could be. And if you only deal with neglecting your flesh, you will be as lost as can be. You must be born again, Jn 3:3-7.
Conclusion: If men beguile you into subjecting yourself to their ordinances, Col 2:20, they will beguile you of your reward. Our victory over the flesh is not a product of our will power. It is the result of walking in the Spirit, Gal 5:16-17, and putting on the new man, Col 3:10. If men beguile you into neglecting your flesh, and you don’t receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, your efforts will all be for naught.
Churches that have been beguiled have gotten away from the spiritual power of God to the carnal power of self-will. Successive generations of members in a church like this will become increasingly carnal. We say about them, “Too much man; not enough God.”