It will be hard for some (maybe many) to understand the point of view presented in this multi-part series. As a reminder, I am sharing what I have understood from God’s point of view. As much as I have understood it, I share God’s point of view to the best of my ability. It is important to realize that over the course of multiple generations deception can set in progressively and subtly. We have a prime example of this in the Old Testament. Those in Israel progressively went astray over the course of multiple generations. They went so astray that even when God sent prophets to speak to them they could not hear God’s appeal to them. In earlier years of my life, it always seemed strange to me that the people of Old Testament Israel could go so far away from how God had instructed them. In truth, they had become blinded and deafened over time to God’s point of view across multiple generations.
I believe the same is true now.
Apostasy in the Church
At some point over the past number of decades I read and focused in on a verse from 1 Timothy. It puzzled me and I knew I did not understand it. I am including three translations of the verse for comparative purposes.
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;1 Timothy 4:1 (KJV 1900)
1 And the Spirit expressly speaketh, that in latter times shall certain fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons,1 Timothy 4:1 (YLT) – Young’s Literal Translation
1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,1 Timothy 4:1 (LEB)
In two cases, it says “seducing” spirits and the other one it says “deceitful” spirits. I think both of these express important ideas about the nature of these spirits and their connection to doctrines/teachings of demons.
My Open Questions
In these situations where there is something in the Bible that is mysterious to me, it has been my habit over the years to ask God something I call an “open question”. This is a question which I do not know the answer but am interested in knowing more about. Sometimes, I will also look into Bible commentaries to see if others have some insight. I do not try to make a conclusion about the meaning right away. I leave the question “open” between myself and God. This is a practice that I adopted in my late teenage years. Some of my “open questions” will span my whole lifetime without an answer. Some receive an answer (partial or complete) in a shorter span of time. After I started asking these “open questions”, I had the repeated experience of some of my “open questions” being answered in different ways. Here are a few ways I have experienced:
- A sudden realization with no apparent additional source where the realization matched with the rest of what I knew of scripture and I had an internal sense from the Lord that it was the answer
- A life experience or some inputs from other believers which opened a new understanding in which I was also reminded of a passage where I had left behind an “open question”
- Reading another portion of Scripture which opened up additional understanding on one of my “open questions”
For me, all of these examples point to one thing… revelation from God. These types of realizations (aka revelations) have to be tested, but if they survive appropriate testing then they can represent a revealed truth from the Spirit of God.
Answers to My 1 Timothy 4:1 “Open Questions”
As of 2012, this verse (1 Timothy 4:1) contained a few long standing “open questions” that I had pondered. My thought had been that we were either IN or APPROACHING the latter times that Paul refers to in this verse, but I did not have significant any insight to what any of the following really meant:
- the Spirit explicitly says – huh? where does the Spirit say anything about this the subject of this verse?
- departing from the faith – what does this really look like from God’s point of view?
- heeding seducing/deceitful spirits – what is a seducing/deceitful spirit? how does it operate?
- teachings/doctrines of demons – what is a doctrine of demons? examples?
I had read this passage many times, but always had the same reaction. I was basically clueless. I knew I would never understand more without God’s help. I did read what a few others had written about this verse, but I knew I still did not really understand it.
Meeting a New Couple in Small Group
Sometime later in 2012 or early in 2013, the facilitator of our weekly small group fellowship called me not long before the start time of our get together. Since the meeting was at our house, he wanted to let me know that he could not come to the gathering, but that a new couple was going to visit for the first time. This new couple arrived on time. No one else did. Everyone else in our small group was significantly late. So, we began to visit. In a way that only God can arrange, this couple had been part of a christian group that was very similar to the one I had grown up in. In this first discussion, we uncovered this similar history. Since I had been Digging into Authority in the Church (2 Timothy 2:15), I thought that some of what I was uncovering might help them. Just a few days before I had completed study on a verse (Hebrews 13:17) which I had come to realize was one of the more problematic verses related to leadership, authority, submission & obedience. I mentioned a little bit about my study and findings for Hebrew 13:17. The husband responded and told me that Hebrews 13:17 was one of the key verses used by the leadership of their group to do great harm to members of their church group.
As you might expect, this similar background was a surprise to each of us. It would turn out that God had brought me into close contact with a couple who had lived in a “parallel universe” to mine as it related to church group involvements. This was the beginning of God’s answer to my “open question(s)” about 1 Timothy 4:1.
Comparing Life in a Parallel Universe
Over the next several months, I got to know this couple. I began researching the church group they had participated in for many years. To my amazement, I began to identify numerous parallels between this group and the one I had grown up in. At the same time, I could not find any sources of connection between these groups. There weren’t any common historical teachers or sources of teaching, but both groups had arrived at eerily similar teachings and practices. Both groups espoused how they were the “special representation of the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church) on the earth today”. Over time, both groups demonstrated evidence of destructiveness towards their participants and their families. There are actually too many parallels to capture here. There seemed to be less differences than similarities.
As I researched, I was surprised by all of this? I asked myself, “How could this be?” How could two groups like these ones develop towards such similar outcomes? Coincidence?
First Answer about Doctrines of Demons
At some point in this process, God reminded me of part of 1 Timothy 4:1… “teachings/doctrines of demons”. My experience over the next few moments was like having been in a dark room and someone just turned on the light. Suddenly, I had a well-lit room with things to explore. I didn’t have an immediate and full understanding of these “teachings/doctrines of demons”, but I knew that God was answering my question and that the strong parallels was not mere coincidence. This was the work of evil spirits which was being carried out in cooperation with christians under deception. Before I say anything else, I must emphasize the intention of these believers. They did not intend to follow “teachings/doctrines of demons”. It happened through deception. In both groups, the full intention combined with years of labor was to do something good for God. This is very sad, but we have to look the situation straight in the face. I have to stand up and say clearly, I have also been deceived in the exact same way about other things. Without examples, I am 100% certain that I have done the same thing as those in these groups. The foundation for this type of mistake is deception which a well intended person can enter into because there is a very real Enemy of God whose realm of evil spirits are at work to deceive.
An Example Doctrine of Demons
It turns out there are many doctrines of demons that the Enemy of God has been sowing into churches. I will give one example related to these two groups to help give some insight to their subtlety.
Both of these groups claimed to be a special and true representation of the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth in this age. This type of claim is not unique to these two groups, but we will use this to explain how it is a doctrine of demons. This claim is presented to those who participate in the group and the adherents take this into their thinking as a truth. They come to see themselves as better and more special than all other groups. The problem is that the effect of this idea actually creates a division in the Body of Christ. It is an exclusive teaching that separates a smaller groupings of believers from the rest of the Body of Christ. The truth is that every believer in God through Jesus Christ is a member in full standing in the Body of Christ. Both of these groups, also put forward this same claim. They were both anti-denominational. They had rejected all forms of denominations in Christianity. They stood apart from taking any name other than the name of Jesus Christ. Both of these groups chose not to take any form of name. They claimed to do this so that they would represent themselves as being part of the true Body of Christ. If you consider this logically, this can seem to be a good thing. By not taking a name they were trying to say that they were not making another division in the Body of Christ, but in actuality both groups became even more exclusive than those who “denominated”.
There are two things to note here:
- Their teaching has a form of truth in it, but there is a twisting and the eventual fruit of the teaching was shown to be unhealthy in practice.
- The teaching was attractive for believers seeking something other than traditional denominational Christianity.
This leads us right into the second question and answer…
Second Answer about Seducing Spirits
1 Timothy 4:1 says that some shall depart from the faith by paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. The idea of seducing in this case is to lead away by means of something attractive. If you think about the example doctrine of demons I mention just above, it is easy how this could be attractive to some who are seeking something more in their christian experience. The idea that you could become part of a unique and special group that is a purer form of the church was (and still is) attractive to various people. It is seductive.
There are evil spirits who work in collaboration with men to seduce those who are not properly aware of the schemes of the Enemy of God. They have been able to install teachings which are not healthy into church environments. These teachings become valid within the particular group and result in leading believers astray. These seducing spirits use the things that they know people will want in their experience to lead astray.
If you have never seen or been aware of the effects of these kinds of bad teachings it may be a little hard to accept that I am mapping such a strong and negative verse onto christians and christian groups whose desire and intent is to try to live for God. As a witness to these kinds of things, I can only tell you that it is very sad. Christians who have wanted to zealously follow the Lord in their lives ending up being dup’ed by the Enemy of God into a false form of Christianity that Paul summarizes as “departing from the faith”.
In truth, I believe this type of thing happens on a gradient scale from mild to severe. So, I must also admit that these seducing spirits and the associated doctrines of demons have not just infected smaller, less known groups. They have infected and taken hold at some level in almost every church in America. And, yes, I know how bold it is to make this claim. I do not do it lightly, nor do I do it with judgmental condemnation. More than anything it is sad. The church needs help.
More Answers about The Holy Spirit Predicting Apostasy
This left two unanswered questions that I had pondered.
- the Spirit expressly says – huh? where does the Spirit say anything about this the subject of this verse?
- departing/falling away from the faith – what does this really look like from God’s point of view?
I will continue to address these questions in my next post: Understanding Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1 – Part 2