by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1 Lincolnton, NC May 29, 2005
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
1901 ASV Translation:
1 But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,
Textual Notes:There are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in 4:1-5. Both are spelling differences consisting of the addition/omission of a single letter in the spelling of the words translated "seared" in 4:2 and "received" in 4:3. The spelling issue does not affect the meaning at all.
I. The bulk of the material in this paragraph focuses upon "eating". From the middle of 4:3 to the end of the paragraph, Paul wrote about the "issue" of eating meat(s).
A. This is remarkable in light of the fact that what he is dealing with is a full-scale apostasy that is set in motion by demons. One would think that in a subject as weighty as a full-blown departure from the faith, the issue would be some "doctrine" that comes under attack, but, instead, it is a "practice" of "self-denial" that comes out as extraordinarily significant.
1. Now, granted, all "practice" is under-girded by "doctrine" so that it really is a "doctrinal" issue that comes to the fore, but it does so in a seductive way by focus upon "practice" rather than a full-blown frontal assault upon some key "doctrine".
a. In other words, it is not a frontal attack upon the "deity of Christ", or the "virgin birth", or "the integrity of the Scriptures as divine revelation", or the "Trinity", or "the gifts of the Spirit", or the question of whether "Jesus" is the promised "Christ", or, as in 1 John 4:2-3 and 2 John 1:7, whether "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh", or any number of other "truths" that make up the foundations of Christianity.
b. Instead, it is a "flanking movement" in a subtle attack on an unprotected side of the doctrines which most believers think are the "most crucial". So, what is the "doctrine" that is really under attack? In brief, the "necessity" of "self-denial" is put forward as a "key" component to "salvation", thus introducing a subtle denial of the sufficiency of the work of Christ for a person's total justification before God. Thus, the "issue" that brings about the "apostasy" is a deceptive slippage on several doctrinal "fronts" that permits people to "buy into" a kind of "personal necessity" for salvation. The bottom line is a rejection of the complete sufficiency of Christ's work for our justification. But above that bottom line is a rejection of "salvation by grace through faith alone" (the addition to "faith" consists of a "work of faith that results in self-denial"); a rejection of the truth about man's complete inability to produce any "righteousness" that will qualify him for justification before God; a rejection of both the love of God and the grace of God; and a rejection of the goodness of God's work in creation in providing "everything" for man's benefit when received with gratitude.
2. This is a revelation of the subtle approach of the demonic world when dealing with the truth of God among men: they attack with a viable argument. After all, did not Jesus Himself teach the "necessity" of self-denial for the effective production of the will of God? Was it not Jesus Who said we must "deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order to follow Him"? Was it not Jesus Who taught that if we do not "lose our lives for His sake and the Gospel's, we will lose our lives altogether"? Was it not Jesus Who taught that we are to love God above all else? Does that not mean that we are not to be enslaved to the appetites of the body? This is the same form of attack that Jesus endured in the wilderness when Satan quoted the word of God as a basis for suggesting that Jesus cast Himself off of the pinnacle of the temple [Note Matthew 4:6]. But, at the root of all demonic approaches, there will always be some form of self-exaltation that makes "salvation" the result of human effort/fidelity. Once this is clear, there is a wholesale diminishing of the deceptiveness involved in the seduction. No believer will be easily led astray who asks and answers one basic question: who will get the glory if I buy into, and practice, this "doctrine"?
B. This is, however, God's fortification of believers against the delusions that are to come.
II. Paul declares that it is the Spirit of God Who deliberately prepares believers so that they will not be led into apostasy.
A. He claims that the Spirit of God "expressly says...".
1. He uses "lego" (a verb that means to focus on content of doctrine in speech).
2. He uses a rare word to the New Testament (translated "expressly") that means "so specifically that it would be hard to miss".
3. He does not say either how or where the Spirit has made this pronounced declaration, but he leaves no doubt that the disintegration of Christianity into just another way for men to glory in their own "productions" of "religion" is inevitable.
B. He sets a "time" when this shall take place.
1. He calls it "the latter times".
2. The implication is that Paul conceived of the age of the program of God in calling out His Church as containing "progressively developing times" in which God would accomplish His agenda of filling out the Body known as the Church.
3. When this "agenda" has developed to a certain point, Satan will counter attack the clear proclamation of the Gospel by introducing a very subtle perversion that will make a basic shift in that proclamation. It will move away from the declaration of God's actions on man's behalf and move to an emphasis upon man's "necessary response(s)" to those actions.
4. That, historically, this actually began in the apostolic age [note the letter to the Galatians as evidence of how quickly this kind of distortion set in], does not mean that Paul's "latter times" was an error. Rather, the seeds of the full-blown distortion were at the very beginning, but it took some "times" before the majority of visible Christianity could be brought into the error. The seeds were there as early as Peter's failure in Galatians 2:11, and the possibilities existed as early as Acts 15, but the majority of visible Christianity was not seduced because of Paul and those like him who gave not even an inch to the distorters until some "times" had gone by.
C. He explains that the development will be an actual sell-out of the faith in apostasy because of the activity of demons.
1. He makes no bones about the fact that it will be a departure from the faith.
2. He doubles up on how it is to take place ... deceiving spirits and doctrinal developments which have demons behind them. Because this boils down to the same thing, we see that he was emphatic about where the real bottom line is: demonic activity. For this cause, in another place, Paul claimed that his wrestling was not with flesh and blood.
3. The more difficult question is how the demons get their doctrinal input into the minds, and then mouths, of human teachers. The most likely answer is that human minds are able to pick up on the communications of other minds and demons have the ability to project their thoughts into the minds of human beings. But, this entire area of interest remains pretty much a veiled issue in so far as the Scriptures are concerned. The Bible does not detail how non-verbal communications take place between spirits. The Biblical revelation regarding apostles and prophets indicates that God, when He has chosen a human being to be one of His "mouths", generates the doctrinal content in the minds of the apostles/prophets (the closest revelation of this process seems to be 2 Peter 1:21, which is not very detailed about the process) and the person chosen knows it is the truth of God. But, both for apostles and prophets as well as every other believer on the planet, the Biblical "practice" of getting the truth of God fixed in one's mental focus is a "practice" of considering the known words of God carefully and in an on-going, regular, way [Note the procedure outlined in Psalm One]. We are never encouraged to simply let our thoughts develop on their own and then try to figure out which ones might be from God and which ones are not. The only way to discern if a "thought" is from God is to know the "known Word of God" well enough to be able to tell that it is "godly" or "biblical" thought. This means that God does not "generate" new truth in people's minds, but, instead, restrains Himself to simply bringing to focus a particular known truth that is already resident in the human brain of the person with whom He is in fellowship at the point in time when that thought needs to be in focus in order for the person to be guided according to His promise. Thus, we will not be given "thoughts" that address non-biblical issues that cannot be compared to known truth so that we can tell if the thought is from God -- like "wear your tan sneakers today" or "buy that yellow Chevy over there" or "go out to lunch with Bubba today". That is not to say that God will not put those thoughts into our minds in order to accomplish His purposes, but we will never know if He was the origin of the thought or we were because we have no way to make that decision as the known word of God has nothing in it to give us that discernment. We may well be able, by looking back on the events of a day after the fact, to see how a given "thought" came to mind just at the right time to create the next "event" and we may well be able to see that the "event" was generated by God, but it is after-the-fact interpretation of events once they have transpired, not "being able to listen to the quiet still inner voice of God" so as to be guided properly. The plain truth is that a gazillion thoughts go through our minds on any given day. Some of them come and go without much impact; others actually determine what we do. Our responsibility is to be sure that our "doings" are "biblically legitimate" so that we can function with a clear conscience, not to try to discern which thoughts are God's and which are ours. The Bible teaches no "spiritual discipline" called "discerning the inner voice of God" and it never makes our spiritual lives dependent upon our skill is so doing.