The Scope of Wrong Doctrine

“Right Doctrine for Right Living” series: (post #4)

How wide is the scope of wrong doctrine? Phrasing the question another way, just how prevalent is wrong doctrine? The answer is that scripture indicates that wrong doctrine is everywhere. The Bible doesn’t only offer numerous passages that speak of the importance of right doctrine, it also provides a multitude of passages that warn about all the wrong doctrines that are out there. Here’s a list of seven of those passages (all using the N.K.J.V.):

  1. In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
  2. In Matthew 15:9, Jesus says of the scribes and Pharisees, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
  3. In Matthew 24:11, Jesus says, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
  4. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul says, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…”
  5. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4, Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
  6. In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter says, “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.”
  7. In 1 John 4:1, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

As we can see from these passages, the danger presented by wrong doctrine is real, constant, and very much present in our world. False teachers who promote wrong doctrine dot the map. Some lurk in the shadows, but others are on the internet, television, or the radio. Some are blatantly offensive, but others are smooth, slick, and sweet. Some preach in blue jeans, but others wear expensive suits, robes, or even dresses. Some are backward, but others are refined and polished. Some preach in heavily guarded compounds, but others fill denominational pulpits. Some are extreme right, but others are extreme left. Still, the end result of these false teachers is always the same: wrong doctrine.

By the way, did you notice in my list of passages that two distinct categories of false doctrine are named? One category is mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1, that verse that serves as #4 on my list. In that verse, Paul warns that in latter times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to what he calls “doctrines of demons.” These are doctrines that come from the minds of demons (fallen angels). A parallel passage concerning the preaching of the “doctrines of demons” is 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, where Paul says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (N.K.J.V.)

Be sure to catch what Paul throws there. He says quite plainly that Satan has human ministers who masquerade as apostles of Christ in order to work deceit. These men and women present themselves as ministers of righteousness but they are in reality ministers of unrighteousness. Obviously, many of the doctrines these false ministers of “light” promote can be classified under the heading the “doctrines of demons.”

As for the second category of wrong doctrine the Bible names, Jesus mentions it in Matthew 15:9, passage #2 on my list. In that verse, He references a prophecy from Isaiah 29:13 to say of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees:

And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (N.K.J.V.)

It is noteworthy that Jesus didn’t even bring Satan and his demons into the mess of this category of doctrine. Instead, He called these wrong doctrines “the commandments of men.” The false commandments He had in mind were all those the Jewish religious leaders had added to God’s Old Testament law as supposed ways of interpreting and applying that law. The fact is, though, that men (and women) today are still cooking up new “commandments of men” and passing them off as right doctrine. 

Actually, there is undoubtedly a lot of overlap between the doctrines of demons and the commandments of men. I say that because anyone who devises wrong doctrine is certainly not being led by God to do so. To the contrary, that person is being led by Satan. And anyone who is led by Satan is easy pickings to be used by Satan’s demons as a vessel to devise and teach wrong doctrine.       

At any rate, whichever category any version of wrong doctrine fits, the point is that such doctrines are pervasive in our world. This has been the case since virtually the dawn of the church age, and the status quo will continue as long as demons still roam the earth and people still create their own ideas about God and religion. Surely even now we are living in the time of which Paul warned Timothy, that time when people will not endure sound doctrine but will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables. Obviously, in a world like that it’s hard to keep yourself from falling under the sway of wrong doctrine. There is, however, something you can do to help yourself in that regard. I’ll identify that something in my next post, and so until then I’ll ask you to please stay tuned….

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