“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)
In chapter one of his first epistle to Timothy, Paul warned about false teachers and heresies in the church of his day, evidently particularly implicating the agnostics and their false skepticism and low moral standards. In our text for today and throughout chapter four, he warns of false teachers “in the latter times,” i.e., in our day and in our churches.
Paul had received an explicit (i.e., “express”) teaching from the Holy Spirit. There was nothing vague about it. The false teachers would, among other things, be “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats” (v. 3), with other false teachings implied throughout the chapter. What does this teach us about those who today forbid their leaders, both men and women, to marry? Or those who insist upon certain dietary regimes for spiritual reasons?
These “doctrines” will cause some to “depart from the faith.” Evidently, some who consider themselves Christians and yet have incomplete discernment will fall into the trap of “seducing spirits,” espousing the “doctrines of devils.” The Greek word translated “depart” is apostesontai, which means “to fall away” from an original position, in this case, “the faith.” The teachers will typically be hypocrites, “speaking lies,” having “their conscience seared” (v. 2). “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).
In this time of great apostasy, we desperately need to know the biblical doctrine concerning devils (or Satan and his demonic henchmen), for their influence has nearly captured American education and culture. But we must be on guard against, and teach others to be on guard against, “doctrines of devils.” JDM