Colossians 2:18-23

Talks for Growing Christians

Paul Warns Against Mysticism and Asceticism

Colossians 2:18-23

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Lesson Number 13

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Mysticism is not Christ-centered, but self-centered.
  2. Asceticism is not taught in the Bible.

Practical Application

  1. Let’s be careful about spiritual experiences.
  2. Don’t think that you can become more spiritual through asceticism.


  1. What was Paul’s concern for the Colossian Christians? Is this a concern today?
  2. Define “mysticism.” How did the Gnostics set forth this belief?
  3. Should Christians be devoid of spiritual experiences? What are the dangers of spiritual experiences?
  4. Who is the Head of the body (the church)?
  5. Explain Colossians 2:21.
  6. Define “asceticism.” What is the inherent danger in asceticism? What is the biblical response to asceticism?


  1. He was concerned that the elements of false teaching would make their way into the truth, and the Colossians would end up with a distorted faith. Yes, it is for concern today.
  2. Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and/or reality can be obtained through subjective experiences. The Gnostics encouraged the worship of angels.
  3. No, experience has its place in Christianity. The danger is to want these feelings all of the time, so you begin to focus on spiritual experiences like visions and the dramatic spiritual gifts. As such, you depend less on the word of God and more on feelings.
  4. Jesus Christ. He is the head; believers are the body (the church).
  5. We died with Christ to everything that has to do with the flesh.
  6. Asceticism is the belief that salvation and/or sanctification comes through severe treatment of the body. It is a wrong idea of sanctification or becoming more spiritual. The biblical answer is to discipline oneself, but not according to asceticism. We do not keep our body under control by our own will power.


  1. Review the definitions and recount the dangers of mysticism and asceticism. Discuss where these philosophies are around today in different forms.
  2. Discuss the biblical principles for keeping fleshly indulgences in check. Remember that the purpose of keeping your body under control is not to merit salvation. So why is it important?


  1. Maintain a close relationship with Christ to ward off false beliefs. Do you have a regularly scheduled time for serious Bible study?

Key Verses

  • “…if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations?” Colossians 2:20

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