KJV Colossians 2:16-18

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18 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,

The regulations mentioned above were given to Moses at Mount Sinai which somehow Paul restates to the church at Colosse

  1. Concerning food
    KJV Leviticus 11:4

    Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

  2. Concerning Sabbaths
    KJV Leviticus 26:2

    Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

  3. Concerning drinking
    KJV Numbers 6:3

    He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.

  4. Concerning Holy days
    KJV Numbers 28:11

    And in the beginnings of your months ye shall offer a burnt offering unto the LORD; two young bullocks, and one ram, seven lambs of the first year without spot;

Paul further reiterates that these regulations were given through Angels to a mediator

KJV Galatians 3:19

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

As much as Paul was rebuking the church at Colosse was he also referring to Moses as an Angel worshipper?

Was Paul tacitly referring to Moses in the above text?

3 Answers 3


Paul is simply telling the members in Colosse that (inter alia) worshiping of angels is prohibited and not to become distracted by such practices, Col 2:18.

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,

This same idea is also present in other places as well such as:

  • Rev 19:9, 10 - Then the angel told me to write, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” So I fell at his feet to worship him. But he told me, “Do not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who rely on the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
  • Rev 22:8, 9 - And I am John, who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown me these things. But he said to me, “Do not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!

That is, in these three places the worship of angels is strictly prohibited. Indeed, Ellicott observes in his comments on Col 2:18 -

Worshipping of angels.—This is closely connected with the “voluntary humility” above. The link of connection is supplied by the notice in the ancient interpreters, of the early growth of that unhappy idea, which has always lain at the root of saint-worship and angel-worship in the Church—“that we must be brought near by angels and not by Christ, for that were too high a thing for us” (Chrysostom). With this passage it is obvious to connect the emphasis laid (in Hebrews 1, 2) on the absolute superiority of our Lord to all angels, who are but “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who are heirs of salvation;” and the prohibition of angel-worship in Revelation 22:9, “See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow-servant . . . worship God.”

Benson is similar -

And worshipping of angels — It evidently appears, from several passages in Philo, to have been the opinion of that learned Jew, that angels were messengers who presented our prayers to God, as well as brought down his favours to us. He represents this view of the matter as most humble and reverential, and there is no doubt but it prevailed among other Jews. See Tob 11:14; Tob 12:12; Tob 12:15. It was undoubtedly because the Jews entertained so great a respect for angels, on account of their supposed agency in human affairs, that the apostle, in this epistle, and in that to the Hebrews, took so much pains to show that the Son of God is greater than all angels. It is justly remarked by Bishop Burnet, that had it been the apostle’s intention to give the least encouragement to any religious addresses to saints and angels, this would have been a very natural occasion of introducing the subject, and adjusting its proper boundaries.

Thus, in Col 2:18, Moses is not mentioned, nor alluded to, at all.


In his letter, chapter 2 of Colossians is an appeal to first century Christians to grasp the significance of "the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ." (verse 2) He explains how, in Christ, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. Knowing what God has revealed in Christ will protect them from being beguiled with enticing words, from being spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, and worldly things.

Then he explains how Christ has blotted out the handwritten ordinances (the law transmitted by angels through Moses) "and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross." (verse 14) Now that the condemnation of the law has been replaced with the forgiveness that comes through grace, those Christians must remain free from all the legalism, and traditions, and dietary laws that used to bind them.

This is the bit you ask about. Food, drink, sabbath-keeping, and keeping certain holy days must no longer prevent them experiencing freedom in Christ. Now they understand how all those things were pointing to Christ, and Christ has come, they must not go back to such observances. They must stop paying attention to those who do not understand the mystery of God in Christ, and such an obstacle is ideas about angels. Way back in the time of Moses, God said he would send his angel before the people, and they must obey that angel. See Exodus 23:20-23. But that Angel appeared as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The Israelites knew they were only to worship God, and to avoid all the pagan idolatry of the nations around them (which included angel-worship).

So, not only is Moses never mentioned in the entire letter of Colossians, he is not even tacitly referred to when angel-worship is mentioned as something to avoid. All reference to the law given by angels, through Moses, is designed to show how the mystery of God cannot be 'seen' through visible representations, or by law-keeping, because they have been "risen with Christ" and are now seeking things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God - Colossians 3:1-4.


The problem is that Verses 16 and 17 don't mean what the question implies they do.

Consider the scripture (KJV, with supplies removed) parsed as:

        no man
            judge you
                in meat
             or in drink
             or in respect
                        of an holyday
                     or of the new moon
                     or of the sabbath
                  which are a shadow
                      of things to come
        but the body of Christ

Then we see it says:

let no man judge you in [how Christians behave differently from most Colossian citizens] but the body of Christ.

The "body of Christ" refers to the Church, and the Colossian Christians are being told to ignore what the public (i.e their pagan friends, relatives, etc.) is saying of them and to listen only to what the Church says.

As for what is meant by "shadow of things to come", we see that it says:

judge you … in respect of [Biblical holy days], which are a shadow of things to come

The holy days are prophetic symbols of God's plan, they are the shadow of things to come.

For more details, see my full answer to What is meant by "these are a shadow of the things to come" in Colossians 2:16-17?, and the linked references it contains.

The Colossian Church had many pagan converts. Their friends, families, co-workers, etc. were all pagans who believed in asceticism and dualism. They believed that the physical body was evil and that the immortal soul it contained could be perfected only through deprivation, pain, and suffering.

Christians though are encouraged to enjoy physical pleasure (in an appropriate context), and part of their new lifestyle included drinking alcohol, eating animal flesh, enjoying marital sex, and celebrating God's festivals. To the pagans, these were immoral sinful activities, and the converts were being criticised by them.

Paul's message is basically to ignore them; to accept judgement only from the Christian Church.

Yes, all those activities Paul listed are part of God's laws as presented through Moses. But they are not, as the question seems to assume, what the outsiders were encouraging the Christians to do. Quite the opposite, they were what the outsiders were condemning the Christians for doing.

In that context, consider the following verse:

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,
— Colossians 2:18 (ESV)

Paul is simply summarizing the situation. Society is condemning the Christians and insisting that they return to asceticism and other pagan practices, and Paul is telling the Christians to resist this pressure, lest they revert back to their previous lifestyle and drop out of the Church.

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