Reflections and Blog

Don’t Let Them Keep You Away

One application Pastor Babij gave in his recent sermon on Jude 17-19 is that, in light of the danger of false teaching, we Christians need to grow in our knowledge of the Bible. Pastor Babij has actually been giving this exhortation throughout his series on Jude, and such counsel is to be taken seriously. After all, one of the trademarks of false teachers throughout history is that they try to keep people from the Bible. This evil goal might be accomplished in a number of ways; consider four:

1. Claim Bible Corruption. One of the most straightforward ways to discourage people from learning the Bible is to assert that the Bible has been corrupted and is therefore no longer trustworthy. This is a common claim from secularists but also appears in world religions, including Islam, Mormonism, and the so-called “higher criticism” of Christianity. In most cases, those claiming corruption do not offer any specific proofs. In the few cases where such proofs are offered, the proofs are easily debunked as simple misunderstandings of the Bible or as born from hostile and unprovable assumptions against the Bible. Nevertheless, the assertion of corruption is incredibly convenient, since it allows a false teacher to proclaim his own teaching without any sort of check from God’s word (cf. Acts 17:11).

2. Proclaim New Revelation. Often going hand-in-hand with claims of Bible corruption, another way a false teacher can keep people away from the Bible is by proclaiming that God has given that teacher fresh divine revelation. This new revelation seems to supersede and correct whatever revelation came before as well as provide more directly relevant and exciting instruction for believers today. Such a tactic is at the heart of Islam and Mormonism but is also prominent in Charismatic Christianity. Those proclaiming a new word from God often claim exclusive authority in revelation and so do not subject themselves to Scripture or other prophets (cf. 1 Cor 14:30-33). Furthermore, since these prophets lack the miraculous signs and perfect accuracy of a true prophet of God (2 Cor 12:12; Dt 18:20-22), they ultimately have no credentials beyond their own proud assertions and reported mystical experiences.

3. Assert Authoritative Tradition. A more subtle version of proclaimed new revelation is to assert an authoritative tradition accumulated from various religious teachers over the centuries. This tradition not only functions as an equally binding source of revelation to the Bible itself but also becomes the necessary lens through which one must interpret the Bible. In practice, then, a believer is expected to pay more attention to the religious tradition than to what God actually said in his Word. This kind of obfuscating tradition notably appears in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Judaism. The problems with authoritative tradition, however, are similar to those in new revelation: aside from the fact that God himself warned against extra-biblical authoritative tradition (Isa 29:13; Mt 15:1-9), the religious traditions frequently contradict both themselves and a plain reading of the Bible.

4. Give Mere Lip-Service. Perhaps the most insidious way to move people away from the Bible is for one to assert in speech how much he values the Bible while in practice he emphasizes everything but the Bible. A person might sprinkle in Bible verses now and then into his teaching or cherry-pick certain passages of Scripture to make a point, but the reality is that the religion is more about proclaiming man’s ideas and meeting felt needs than declaring the truth of God. So many forms of popular Christianity have gone down this path, whether by focusing on prosperity or politics, social activism or seeker-friendlyism, music or miracles. Pastors often end up only telling stories, giving motivational speeches, or proclaiming their own opinions. If ever confronted by their own lack of Bible-content, such teachers might either appeal to new divine revelation or feign humility and say that deeper Bible teaching is beyond their ability or calling (cf. 2 Tim 2:15).

Now, not all false teachers are fully conscious of their using the above to keep people away from the Bible, but there is another group who definitely is: Satan and his demons. We must remember that, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, our struggle is not ultimately against people but against demonic potentates who want to keep unbelievers in darkness and to cause believers to stumble and become ineffective as witnesses of Christ. Because of both the personal and global stakes in the war for divine truth, then, let us by God’s Spirit and grace not let anyone keep us from the Bible—not false teachers, not demons, and not our own sinful flesh.

Ephesians 6:13, 17, Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm…And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Questions to Consider:
1. Why would false teachers and demons want so much to keep people from the Bible, even while allowing people to enjoy the trappings of religion or Christianity?
2. Despite the shaky foundations of the four approaches listed above, why are many people still so attracted to false teaching over the Bible?
3. Is something keeping you from the Bible? How should you respond in light of the above?