What Kinds of Things Do Demons Teach? #304
Happy Monday, dear friends! Welcome aboard to new listeners in Washington D.C./Hagerstown (100+ episodes) and Tampa St. Petersburg (97 episodes) and a new listener down under in Queensland, Australia who downloaded almost 50 episodes.
Great comment from WWH on episode #302:
At The Bible Reading Podcast home base, we have 5 children, ages 9-19. Most nights we as a family endeavor to have ‘Bible time,’ which is the least creative name that anybody has ever used for a family devotional kind of thing, and that might explain why the kids are not always enthused about coming. They eventually come, and they listen…ish…but maybe we should start calling it Snapchat Among Us Fortnite hour of power in the Word time, or something like that. Anyway, while our kids do have real paper Bibles, they keep track of their own reading plans individually on their own Bible apps. You can track your reading, and have friends and such on most of these Bible apps, and when you highlight a verse, or start a new reading plan, or finish a book or whatever, your friends are notified. You can also make Bible verse images and that notifies your friends too. Yesterday, we read 2nd Kings 6 as a family, which has a very awesome part of it where Elisha asks God to open his servant’s eyes, and the servant sees the army of God encircling around them in fiery chariots. It’s awesome and inspiring. Unfortunately, right after that there’s that passage about the siege that leads to a famine that leads to a cup of dove’s dung selling for 2 ounces of silver, and a mother and her friend getting so hungry that they decide to something basically horrific that I won’t repeat here. Guess which verses my kids highlighted in their Bibles and made verse images about? Yes, you got it – not the super-spiritual ones. I apologize to the parents of my kid’s friends who might be traumatized by this behavior.
In less traumatizing news, our Bible readings for the day include 2nd Kings 7, Psalms 119:25-48, Daniel 11 and 1 Timothy 4. Today I will explain to you exactly what the prophecies of Daniel 11 mean. Haha. That is a little bit of Bible humor for you. Instead of attempting that rather herculean feat our focus will actually be in 1 Timothy 4, and our Big Bible question is all about…all about what? That is the question. I was all excited to talk to you about the Great Apostasy that Paul is alluding to here in this chapter, but we have already discussed that, and I had forgotten. In my defense, that was over 200 episodes ago! So today, we are going to ask a tantalizing question with a less than tantalizing answer, but the answer will be quite interesting and instructive. What sorts of things do demons teach is our question, and let’s read 1 Timothy 4 and see the answer:
I’ll bet you didn’t expect this, unless you knew this passage well, or had already read it today. Most would think that demons teach to drink too much, swear a lot, and play with Ouija boards (and I recommend none of those things!,) but it turns out that, according to Paul, the false teaching of demons is a bit more mundane than we would expect:
4 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 3 They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
So – what do demons teach? It would appear to be some sort of rules-based legalism, at least in this case. Does the Bible forbid marriage? Of course not! Does the New Testament forbid the eating of certain foods? Apart from blood, the answer is no…but apparently false teachers, inspired by the demonic and deceitful spirits, were teaching these rules that had no basis in the Word of God, and thus had no power to transform or save or help in any way. I believe Paul elaborates on this understanding in Colossians 2:
20 If you died with Christ to the elements of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. 23 Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.
Here Paul is telling us that some rules and commands – the kinds that are not in the Bible and are not God-breathed – are of NO value at all in pursuing righteousness, but instead seem to do physical harm to the body and/or cause one to put on an appearance of holiness/piety when a person is not at all being Godly, but just following human commands – human commands that may well be inspired by the demonic. This is why we must be so careful and deliberate and diligent to hold to the Word of God and not hold to traditions that have no mooring and root in God’s Word. This is true for pastors, Sunday school teachers, parents, and Christians with ANY influence on other people. Our teaching comes from the Word and really no other source. Here’s John Piper on the danger of false teaching in the church:
To say “false teaching harms the church” is perhaps just to state the obvious, but in a day marked by much pluralism and subjectivism it bears repeating. The very existence of the epistles in the New Testament testifies to the importance that the apostles placed on sound doctrine! In the epistles, sound doctrine is taught again and again, and error is implicitly or explicitly corrected. This is the case in every New Testament epistle.
Sometimes false doctrine in the early churches threatened the gospel itself. Paul was concerned that false teachers would come to the churches of Galatia, even preaching a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6), in which case Paul says they should be “accursed” (vv. 8, 9).2 And he told the Galatians that if they gave in to those who wanted to require circumcision, Christ would be of “no advantage” to them (Gal. 5:2). The implication is that salvation itself was at stake because people could not be saved through a false gospel.
False teaching was a continual threat in other churches as well. For example, Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that “fierce wolves” would come in, “not sparing the flock,” and that even from among the elders themselves, there would arise “men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).
When writing to Timothy about the church at Ephesus, Paul said that those who teach a “different doctrine” (1 Tim. 6:3), far from promoting the peace and unity of the church, and far from giving the church greater insight through conversations about their novel ideas, actually harmed the church by their “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth” (vv. 4–5). Paul also warned Timothy to “avoid” the “irreverent babble and contradictions” of certain false teachers, for by professing what they called “knowledge,” Paul says that some of them had “swerved from the faith” (vv. 20–21). In his subsequent letter to Timothy, Paul again warned Timothy to “avoid” such “irreverent babble,” for, he said, “it will lead people into more and more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:16). In fact, Paul knew that this was already happening, for Hymenaeus and Philetus were “upsetting the faith of some” (vv. 17–18). He also warned that in latter times some would “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).
With respect to the churches in Crete, Paul wrote to Titus that elders had to be able both “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). He knew that false teachers there were “upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11).
Peter, in writing to probably hundreds of churches in “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1; cf. 2 Pet. 3:1), warned that false teachers would arise among the people, and that they would “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1), that “many will follow their sensuality,” and that “because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (v. 2).
Jude, in a similar way, urged his readers to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) because certain false teachers had “crept in unnoticed” and, far from being harmless, they were people who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).
After reading such verses, we might wonder if any of us have the same kind of heart for purity of doctrine in our Christian organizations, and the same sort of sober apprehension of the destructiveness of false doctrine, that the New Testament apostles had in their hearts.
If we ever begin to doubt that false teaching is harmful to the church, or if we begin to become complacent about false doctrine, thinking that it is fascinating to ponder, stimulating to our thoughts, and worthwhile for discussion, then we should remind ourselves that in several cases the New Testament specifies that the ultimate source of many false teachings is Satan and his demons:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. (1 Tim. 4:1)
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24–26)
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 7)
John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth, Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 341–343.