9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. 10 He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (2 John 9–11, NKJV)
From pulpits and pews, people speak of “salvation issues.” True, there are issues of personal conscience and choice (on which God has not given a divine pronouncement) that qualify as non-salvation issues (Rom. 14:1-5). But today’s passage is not of that sort. The doctrine of Christ has been revealed and recorded in the Scriptures. We are called to abide in His doctrine (the truth, Jno. 8:31-32). The Scriptures reveal issues that affect salvation. Here are some: 1) Sin is a salvation issue (Rom. 6:23). Violating God’s will (and tolerating its transgression) brings eternal death. 2) Worship is a salvation issue (Jno. 4:22-24). We cannot offer God vain worship (void of “spirit and truth”) and be saved despite sinful worship (Matt. 15:7-9). 3) False doctrine is a salvation issue (2 Tim. 2:16-19). Men strayed from the truth and overthrew people’s faith with their iniquity when they taught error about the resurrection. For this reason, John warned us not to have fellowship with those who teach error (2 Jno. 10-11). 4) Spiritual neglect is a salvation issue (Heb. 2:1-4). Failure to grow in Christ is a sin that brings punishment (v. 3). Simply put, when God speaks His will, it becomes a salvation issue (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4).
12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. (Galatians 6:12–13, NKJV)
Paul warned the Galatians of those whose teaching was perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-10; 2:4-5; 3:1-3). Their false doctrine of binding the Law of Moses on Gentile Christians was damning them and endangering many others (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-7). Paul summarized his letter to the Galatians with a scathing indictment of these opponents of the truth. They had hidden agendas (Gal. 2:4). 1) To escape persecution (v.12). These Jewish Christians were avoiding persecution by compromising (corrupting) the gospel. Fellow Jews would not persecute them “for the cross of Christ” if they showed solidarity over the Law of Moses. Changing our teaching to avoid persecution is a sin against Christ and the truth (Matt. 24:10-12; 1 Pet. 3:). 2) To boast in their accomplishment (v. 13). Like the hypocritical Pharisees who gloried in making proselytes, these Jewish Christians boasted in the circumcision of the Gentiles (Matt. 24:15; Phil. 3:4). They “zealously courted” the Gentile Christians, only to enslave them to their error to do their bidding (Gal. 4:17). We must only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and never in personal accomplishments over others (Gal. 6:14-15; Rom. 15:17-18). Our faith must be free of personal agendas that tarnish the cause of Christ and His disciples.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NKJV)
This warning is equally relevant and applicable to us as when given to the Colossian saints. Consider dissecting this warning in reverse. 1) The source of the danger. False teachings originate in the “basic principles of the world” and the “tradition of men” formed around those principles. We are taught not to love the world (1 Jno. 2:15-17). False teaching grows out of misplaced love, impure lusts, and human pride. 2) The means used to spread false teaching. The philosophical systems and sophistry of men (the wisdom of men) inject doubt and “empty deceit” into unsuspecting minds (Col. 2:3-4; Rom. 16:16-17). The gospel is foolishness to the “enlightened” minds of unbelievers. Professing to be wise, they become fools (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Rom. 1:22). 3) The effect of false teaching. It captures souls and plunders our spiritual treasures. In Christ, we have “all riches of the full assurance of understanding” because “all the treasures of wisdom and understanding” are in Him (Col. 2:3-4). Truth is in Jesus, and error is of the evil one (Eph. 4:21; 2 Cor. 4:3-4). 4) The warning. We must “beware,” carefully watching for false teachers and their deceptive teachings. You see, it matters to God what we believe and teach. He does not accept every “wind of doctrine;” therefore, we cannot (Eph. 4:14). Because there is truth, there is also error. We strive to speak the truth in love because the truth frees us from sin (Eph. 4:15; Jno. 8:31-32).
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1–2, NKJV)
Peter’s warning makes it clear that what we believe and teach matters to God. Therefore, what Bible teachers teach us should matter. To think it does not matter to God what we believe “as long as we are sincere” flies in the face Peter’s admonition. The instruction of a false teacher is erroneous. His message is destructive and heretical and often is brought in secretly (cf. Jude 4). False teaching denies the Lord, who is the Truth, and in whose word we must abide (Jno. 14:6; 8:31-32). Peter emphasizes the danger of following error in verse 2. We cannot follow a destructive way without also being destroyed. False teaching is against “the way of truth.” When Christians follow it, others blaspheme (speak against) the truth. Peter did not teach unity in doctrinal diversity. Peter did not say a teacher is false only if his heart is insincere or deceptive. It is the false teaching that identifies the teacher as false (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jno. 9-11). Minimizing false teaching minimizes Peter’s warning and endangers souls. Truth sets us free, but error enslaves (Jno. 8:32).
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. (2 Peter 2:18–19, NKJV)
With empty words that promise pleasure and freedom, the voices of error and evil use fleshly lusts and sinful abandon to bait, capture, and enslave souls. With swelling words, they offer people alcohol as a social beverage to mix and mingle, to relax, and to have a good time. What they do not advertise is the drunken stupor and addiction it causes (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35). With swelling words, they offer people sex (from an early age) without shame and (supposed) consequences. Telephone apps make hooking up easy. The morning after pill, chemical abortions (RU-486 pill), and surgical abortions are the worldly person’s “get out of jail free” cards. Casual sex outside of marriage not only defiles what is holy in marriage, but it also erodes moral boundaries, often becoming just as addictive as alcohol (Heb. 13:4; Rom. 1:28-29). Those who urge you to defile yourself are “slaves of corruption” already (and misery loves company). The remedy for the spiritual, mental, and emotional trauma caused by sin’s enslavement is Jesus Christ. But it requires a determined faith to trust and obey Jesus instead of following the empty and deadly teachings of men that indulge the flesh and darken the soul (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 18:8; Rom. 6:17-18; 12:1-2). Take God’s way of escape; it is there for us all (1 Cor. 10:12-13).
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1, NKJV)
James sets his context for mature control over the tongue (Jas. 3:2-5). The teacher of God’s word will be judged for the teaching he does and the words he uses in that work. Every responsibility one has will be judged; James is not singling out teachers expect to emphasize that teaching comes with judgment – an incentive to be mature in the use and control of our tongues. 1) God will judge what a teacher teaches. We must teach the revealed word of God, not opinions, and the will of men (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Acts 20:20-27). Teachers must be careful to speak God’s word (2 Tim. 4:2; Gal. 1:8-9). Teach truth, not error. 2) God will judge how a teacher teaches. Paul explained this to Timothy: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Coupled with “rightly dividing the word of truth,” Timothy would know how to teach effectively. 3) God will judge why a teacher teaches. Paul continued, “if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). We teach the gospel to save souls, not to commend ourselves before men (1 Cor. 1:23-24; Col. 1:28; Matt. 23:6-8). As teachers, may our tongues speak words that honor God and accomplish His will in the hearts and lives of men. Be careful teachers; judgment is coming.
1 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1–3, NKJV)
Jesus warned His disciples of the permeating effect of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. Their religious pretense brought them reputation, renown, and respect from the populace (Matt. 23:2-7). Couple this with the heavy burden of their teachings, which bound traditions as if they were the will of God, and you have a powerful force that made their converts children of hell (Matt. 15:1-9; 16:6, 12; 23:15). Leaven is unseen in the dough, but the risen bread exposes its presence and effect. The gospel of Christ would spread from small beginnings to fill the world, exposing hypocrisy and error with the light of truth (Matt. 28:19-20). The gospel will not bring you reputation, renown, or the respect of men. But it will convert you into a child of God (Jno. 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26-27). May the gospel of Jesus influence you to walk in the light of His truth (Jno. 8:12, 31-32).
“Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33, NKJV)
Christ’s words were scalding as He exposed the sins of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. “Woe to you…hypocrites!” “Blind guides!” “Fools and blind!” “Serpents, brood of vipers!” May disciples of Jesus follow His example of exposing, rebuking, and even pronouncing God’s condemnation of those who teach error and, by it, lead others into sin? Some say, “No, this was Jesus! He knew men’s hearts, but we don’t. We are not Jesus; we cannot do this.” Yet, here and elsewhere, Jesus addressed both the sinful conduct and the motives of heart that produced their error and sin. Both teachings and behavior, whether good or evil, come from the heart (Matt. 12:35). When He warned against false prophets, Jesus said: “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). Since we can know false proclaimers of God’s word from the fruit of their teachings, surely we are to warn others of the danger their error poses (Paul did this, 1 Tim. 4:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Couple this with the undeniable truth that disciples follow their Master’s example, and we have ample right and reason to carefully identify and denounce sin and error (Lk. 6:40). Perhaps we should ask, did Jesus sin by using such harsh denunciations? No. Was His heart pure when He did? Yes. And, our hearts can be pure and our conduct without sin when we follow His example of warning against error and identifying those who promote it. Indeed, our hearts must be pure as we examine and expose error, lest we fall under the same condemnation (Rom. 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:16). God’s truth is our guiding light to expose sin and to advance righteousness (Jno. 3:19-21).
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Romans 16:17–18, NKJV)
The word “doctrine” in verse 17 is translated from a Greek word that means instruction or teaching. If doctrine is not important to one’s relationship with Jesus (as many avow), then why did the apostle say to “note” and “avoid” those whose doctrine causes divisions and offenses? If doctrine is not essential to being united in Christ (which many affirm), then why does teaching contrary to what had been learned (from the apostles) cause division (Gal. 1:6-9)? The answer is that doctrine does matter. False doctrine causes division. False teaching divides people from God and from each other. The apostle Paul lays bare the heart of the false teacher in verse 18. His (or her) motive is to serve and satisfy self, not the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a motive is hidden by “smooth words and flattering speech” that deceive the naïve (simple). But, their doctrine conflicts with revealed truth. We must test every message we are taught against the Scriptures to see if it is from God (1 John 4:1, 6). This will protect us against the deception of error. We must trust the word of God more than the word of any human.
14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:14–15, NKJV)
A contrast of two “words” is made in today’s text. First, there are words of strife which are profitless and ruinous to those who listen to them (v. 14). Then, there is “the word of truth” which is to be rightly divided by the diligent worker to be approved to God. Words of strife are catastrophic (ruin, Gr. “katastrŏphē”), demolishing the faith of those who teach and accept them. On the other hand, when the word of truth is dissected correctly (rightly dividing, “to make a straight cut”), the result is God’s approval without shame. Scripture teaches us the difference between words of strife and words of truth in the next sentence. (We can know truth, and we can know error.) Paul went on to say the “profane and idle babblings” of false teaching are the ruinous words we must avoid (2 Tim. 2:14, 16-18). To diligently present ourselves approved to God we must not embrace false, profitless, strife-filled words. Rightly dividing God’s word is required to know these words for what they are. When we have ears to hear (receive) truth we must also have ears that recognize (and refuse) false teaching. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22).