Where the doctrine of vigilance and testing is not understood and obeyed, the devil devours.
As soon as a church begins to neglect the doctrine of vigilance and testing, it is on the road to apostasy.
The doctrine of vigilance and testing is contrary to the “judge not, live and let live” doctrine that prevails among professing Christians in these apostate times.
While attending the New Orleans ’87 ecumenical conference with media credentials, I had a discussion one afternoon with a young man who was working with one of the “evangelical” ministries represented at the congress. I asked how he could be comfortable in the midst of such apostasy, and I mentioned the Roman Catholic speakers, the Catholic mass that was held every morning, the sacramental faith-works gospel, the statues of Mary and rosaries for sale in the bookstore, Pentecostal heresies, infant baptism, the rock music, and other things. He replied, “You need to relax and enjoy what God is doing.” The verses we quote in this chapter came to my mind, and I knew for certain that he was wrong. God’s Word does not tell me to relax and go with the flow in this age. It warns repeatedly and forcefully of great spiritual and doctrinal danger and the necessity of being exceedingly vigilant and testing everything with Scripture.
The dangers described in the following Scriptures have increased greatly since the first century. The internet has facilitated the spread of heresy as well as truth. Multitudes of professing Christians have been devoured by heresies they encountered on web sites and social media, heresies they weren’t prepared to deal with.
It is not enough simply to quote these verses and mention them in preaching and teaching in a general sense. They must be applied to daily life. The churches must identify the spiritual and doctrinal dangers that exist in their place and time and aggressively protect the saints. Key persons and organizations that represent danger should be identified.
The entire flock must be properly educated on this matter, and each generation must be re-educated.
Resources must be made available to educate, inform, and warn. Every church should have a good library and a bookstore. Informational materials such as O Timothy magazine and the Friday Church News Notes can be made available. Sound web sites should be recommended and dangerous ones exposed.
We see in the following verses that spiritual deception will be widespread in the church age, and the protection is to know God’s Word well, to test everything by it, and to reject everything that is wrong. The New Testament is filled with warnings to “beware,” “be vigilant,” “take heed,” “look well,” “prove,” “try.” Every believer must be like the noble Bereans. We must carefully test every Bible teacher by God’s Word to know if he is true or false. False teachers are deceptive; they hide under sheep’s clothing. A good knowledge of Scripture and keen spiritual discernment are necessary for protection.
“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Pr. 14:15).
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mt. 7:15).
“And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mt. 24:4-5; Mr. 13:5-6).
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Ac. 17:11).
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch” (Ac. 20:29-31).
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Co. 10:5).
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Co. 11:3-4).
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14).
“Let no man deceive you with vain words” (Eph. 5:6).
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Php. 3:2).
“And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (Col. 2:4).
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18).
“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Th. 5:6).
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Th. 5:21).
“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 Ti. 4:1).
“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Ti. 3:13).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things ...” (2 Ti. 4:3-5).
“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Good spiritual discernment requires work and experience.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pe. 5:8).
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. ... shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you ... sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you ... Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Pe. 2:1, 2, 13; 3:17).
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. ... These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.” (1 Jo. 2:18, 26).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jo. 4:1).
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 Jo. 1:7-8).
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Re. 2:2).
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