In the first couple of verses of I Timothy 4, Paul warns the young preacher that hypocrisy and falsehood will begin to lead people away from the gospel. Keeping this in mind, Ephesians 4:11-14 speaks of the need for teachers and leaders who will help the church stand against the dangers of false teachings. He refers to the winds of doctrine tossing congregations about as boats in a storm. Spiritually, we can easily be blown off course if we are not anchored in God’s truth.
In I Timothy 4, Paul cites these false doctrine as coming from men who are crafty, cunning, who have false motives. Certainly, some teach falsely with sincerity and conviction as well, and we should work to avoid falling into falsehoods regardless of sincerity. We should be prepared to identify and be wary of potential sources for error.
Sources of Wind
People we hold in high esteem can lead us astray. We hold to our commentaries, favorite preachers, favorite teachers, and their ideas and opinions carry weight. However, none of these individuals are inspired. I might have known a preacher my whole life, but long association does not equate infallibility. I Corinthians 1:12 addresses this mindset of placing too much authority and faith in the words of an individual, and 2:5 of the same book reminds us to place our faith in God over men.
Closely related to those we hold in esteem, we can allow friends and peers to influence us overmuch. I Kings 12 records Rehoboam taking counsel with the elders who had advised Solomon as well as with his peers regarding how to win the respect and service of the people. Rehoboam prefers the unwise advice of his peers, advice that leads to the citizens rebelling against him. Also, Pilate, in Mark 15:15, takes action to pacify the crowds who appeal to his political connections. He acts against his conscience to make others happy. We might know what is right, but our friends and peers might cause us to waver.
Finally, we can cause ourselves to be tossed about. We might hold to stubbornness. We might hold to tradition. We can stand in our own way to progress. Naaman, in II Kings 5, gets in his own way when the prophet’s instructions are not what he expects. He visits Elisha to be healed, expecting a great miracle (verse 11), but is sent away to go wash himself in the Jordan River. Initially, he is resistant to follow Elisha’s instructions solely because it is not what he wants. “I think” can too often get in our way.
We should expect scriptural basis for what we practice and teach. I Peter 4:11 calls us to appeal to God’s authority in our teachings and ministering. Jesus, while tempted in the wilderness, always returned to scripture when answering Satan.
Ephesians 4:13 speaks of having unity in faith, knowledge of Jesus, spiritual maturity, and a love for truth. A lack of these qualities opens us up to being tossed about by false doctrine, but each of these is correctable. In faith and in doctrine, we should be respecting God’s word, and holding it as our own standard – recognizing that our opinions can be wrong. We should be spending more time in God’s word, studying and continually growing in knowledge. Sometimes, we also have to accept that it’s time to grow up, growing in our conduct, in our involvement, in our commitment. John 17:17 records Jesus asking God to sanctify His followers in God’s truth, and Psalm 119 focuses in the importance of God’s law, and verse 105 refers to that law as a light to guide our steps.
Troubling influences can come from without and within. As we seek to grow spiritually and recognize from where storms can come, we can grow up into Christians anchored in truth, able to withstand the influences of false doctrine.
lesson by Tim Smelser