There is one word that strikes fear into the heart of every athlete. As soon as the referee says this word, all their work, effort, and productivity comes to a screeching halt. Having this word applied to you feels like a death sentence, and the stigma attached to it – especially when others find out – is equally crushing.
The last thing any athlete wants to hear is that they have been disqualified. You can critique their form, give them low marks for execution, or even penalize them for their errors; but when an athlete is DQ’d, the competition, for them, is over. To be disqualified is to be declared ineligible for the prize.
Earlier, Paul explained to the believers in Colossae that Jesus intends to take them from salvation to full maturity. Our salvation is certain because it depends on Jesus. However, Paul said that reaching maturity had some limiting factors based upon our choices and actions; there were conditions involved.
And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him – if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard.
The word if shows that they can be disqualified from reaching full maturity. A few paragraphs later, Paul explains how it can happen.
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his fleshly mind. He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.
In Paul’s day, Jewish Occultism encouraged prayer to angels for protection, deliverance, or assistance. They also believed that praying to the “right” angel was needed to thwart the advances of demons who were in charge of particular aliments of the body or problems in the home. Additionally, the local Greek folk tradition placed significance on visionary experiences in connection with their spiritual practices. Before we scoff at such primitive ideas, we need to remember that we come across similar teachings within Christianity when people are told to pray to their “guardian angel” or to a particular “saint” for protection.
Paul’s point is that these kinds of beliefs about angels and surface-level practices undermine Jesus’ authority in our lives. Running to “angels” or “saints” or “visions” shows that we don’t think Jesus can handle what we’re dealing with at the moment. How can we say that Jesus is the King of the Universe, but then look somewhere else for our well-being?
It’s these kinds of self-contradictions that shift us away from the full maturity Christ desires to develop in us. We must remember it is not certain that, at the end of all things, we will be presented as holy, faultless, and blameless before Him. If we are pronounced disqualified, then we are sure to miss out on some eternal rewards and opportunities to serve with Christ in eternity future.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get hung up on ascetic, good-looking practices that, in the end, pull us away from His plan for us. However, we are not without help. Jesus told His disciples to “Remain in Me” (John 15:4), not “remain in My angels” or “remain in visions”. The One who was the start of our faith is the One who will mature it as well. So let’s continue to trust Him and hold tight to Him.