Preaching truth mixed with a little error ultimately leads the church to turn from the Bible completely.

Fire drills and tornado drills can seem redundant, but they are necessary for collective safety. Paul drills Timothy on defending the faith in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. His words tie back to the instruction in chapter 1 on addressing falsehood in the church. Pragmatism or legalism is addressed through rehearsing the Gospel and individual believers' testimonies. Falsehood does not encourage outreach because it has no message to share outside the church. It works inside and divides the flock. Genuine believers embrace the Gospel and seek to take it outside the walls of the church.


Sources (verses 1-2)

There are two conflicting sources of information in these verses, the Spirit and demons. We soberly realize that even Christians can be adversely affected by the doctrine of the devil. There is always the danger of believers and unbelievers among the church falling away from the faith, which is defined as the whole body of truth in God's Word.

Both these sources are immaterial and internal. Spirit beings are unseen but still have an influence. The Holy Spirit offers a warning, while other spirits are sources of deception.

Satan is the ultimate imitator (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). He mimics truth but mixes it with deceit to draw people away from God. His helpers are other deceitful spirits who also seek to blind people (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). They can influence leaders to become deceitful as well and lead others astray.

People who are not satisfied with God's Word and Jesus Christ are particularly susceptible to deception. They add things to the Gospel while presenting themselves as teachers of the truth. Sadly, believers can be persuaded by the ideas of deceitful spirits. (See Acts 5:1-11 and Galatians 2:11-24.)

Deceptive spirits operate internally to the church. Teachers of falsehood in the church are hypocrites, who teach one thing within the church but act the opposite way elsewhere. The more they present a false front, the more insensitive they become to the truth. Their conscience becomes so "seared" that they need to be removed from the church.

These verses do not mean that anyone can come to a point where they cannot be saved. In the dispensation of the church, there is always the opportunity to turn from sin and receive God's grace.

The mark of a true disciple-making leader is that he practices what he preaches and owns the Word of God exclusively as his truth content. He always adheres to the truth in God's Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Hypocrites have "denied in their private lives that which they proclaimed in their public lives, and this led to their burned conscience." Paul warns not of their influence on the general community but inside the church.

System (verse 3)

The false system Paul warned against taught that people can reach a higher level of spiritual maturity if they abstain from marriage and certain foods. Colossians 2:8-23 deals with the same teaching. False teachers mixed legalism and Eastern asceticism to base Christian maturity on external dos and don'ts. Approval of one's lifestyle was given by a single person, who divided the body of Christ by setting some on a level above others. This teaching is impersonal and based on a system, not Christ-likeness. Perfectionism leaves those who cannot attain a certain level feeling guilty and uncertain about their salvation.

The truth is that all believers are equal in Christ, and all are to keep growing through knowing and practicing God's Word. We do not have to rely on the word of others; the Bible approves what is right if we only know it.

Sanctification (verse 4-5)

The false teaching of asceticism denies God's goodness. What God's Word declares as good, we should receive with a thankful heart. Nothing is to be rejected if God has sanctified it.

Hypocritical teachers do not sound immediately alarming. They are already trusted in the church because they have been around for some time. They look for new or weaker people who their teaching can easily lead astray.

Application Points

  • Our Gospel witness is the primary thing God uses to confront falsehood in the local church. Begin on your knees in prayer, and ask God how you can share your testimony with someone else.
  • Believer, continue to embrace the Word of God exclusively. There is no other source we need to address life's issues. It's not okay to look to Jesus and something else. Jesus is always enough for our salvation and sanctification. If anyone is adding to the Bible, they are being deceived by a demon. Don't grow weary of "drilling" this reality; it is for our protection.
  • Guard against any teaching that says you can achieve higher spiritual maturity by denying something God has given as good. Let God's grace be the change agent in our lives, not a system.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 2 Peter 2:1-2 – Peter gives a similar warning to other churches.
  • Ephesians 6:10-17 – The armor of God allows us to withstand the fiery darts of the evil one.
  • Mark 7:18-19, Acts 10:15 – God has called all foods clean.
  • Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 – When we may abstain from something God calls good.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know"

Ask ye what great thing I know,
that delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Who defeats my fiercest foes?
Who consoles my saddest woes?
Who revives my fainting heart,
healing all its hidden smart?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

Who is life in life to me?
Who the death of death will be?
Who will place me on his right,
with the countless hosts of light?
Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know;
this delights and stirs me so:
faith in him who died to save,
him who triumphed o'er the grave:
Jesus Christ, the crucified.