The failure to separate from sin and false teaching was a major problem in the church at Corinth, and this had brought spiritual and moral harm. Paul returns to this theme twice in the second epistle. Compare 2 Co. 6:14-18 and 11:1-4. Separation is a major theme of Paul’s other epistles. See also Ro. 12:2; 16:17; Eph. 5:11; Php. 3:17; Col. 2:8; 1 Ti. 6:3-5; 2 Ti. 2:16-18, 22; 3:5.
Separation is spiritual protection. It is necessary. Most churches today do not obey these commands. They say this is too strict, too hard. That is because so many professing Christians are not saved or they are carnal. They don’t want to live according to God’s Word. They want to fit in with the world. They don’t want to be different. They are comfortable in this world; they aren’t pilgrims; their hearts are not on things above.
Paul gives two sharp exhortations in 1 Corinthians 15:33-34.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Co. 15:33).
1 Corinthians 15:33 is a command to separate from all evil communications. It describes a very strict way of Christian living. It is a warning that any association or company or companionship or communion with any form of evil spoils the right and biblical way of Christian living and thinking.
“Evil communications” refer to any kind of associations, relationships, communion, conversation, and fellowship that is evil, bad, wrong, or harmful by the standard of God’s Word. “Communications” is the Greek homilia, which refers to any form of association, companying together, companionship, conversation. It is from homileo, meaning “a multitude, a crowd, a company.” It is translated “talked together” (Lu. 24:14) and “communed together” (Lu. 24:15). “Evil” is the Greek kakos, the common New Testament word for evil. It is also translated “wicked” (Mt. 21:41), “harm” (Ac. 16:28), and “ill” (Ro. 13:10). Evil is anything that is contrary to God’s standard of righteousness and holiness.
“Corrupt” is phtheiro, “to waste, destroy, bring to a worse state, spoil, subvert” (Complete Word Study Bible). It is translated “defile” and “destroy” (1 Co. 3:17). It is used for the corruption of the mind by false doctrine (2 Co. 11:3). “Good manners” is chrestos (profitable, fit, good for any use) and ethos (custom, habit, morals, character). It refers to the right or biblical way of living and thinking.
1 Corinthians 15:33 is a command to have a testing mindset. It is a command to judge everything by the standard of whether or not it is an evil communication and to avoid everything that fits that standard. This is contrary to the “judge not, be tolerant, lighten up, don’t be so strict” thinking that is predominant within 21st century Christianity.
1 Corinthians 15:33 applies to every area of life: friendships, marriage, education, entertainment, literature, social media, television, movies, YouTube videos, video games, music, etc. It applies to children, youth, parents, preachers, and grandparents. Evil communications will corrupt good manners of any person of any age.
1 Corinthians 15:33 is an extremely important warning in the internet era in which evil communications are only a mouse click or a screen tap away. The word homilia (communion, companionship, company) is an exact definition for social media!
1 Corinthians 15:33 warns that it is easy to be deceived in this matter. Paul says, “Be not deceived.” You are not an exception. If you associate with, commune with, company with, converse with evil, you will most definitely be injured by it. If your children associate with, commune with, company with, converse with evil, they will most definitely be injured by it. Multitudes have been deceived in this matter.
Billy Graham was corrupted by evil communications. He started out as a fundamentalist who believed the Bible completely and literally. He attended Bob Jones University. But as a young evangelist he renounced separation and began associating with liberal theologians, Roman Catholics, and others. He ended up denying eternal hell and the six-day creation, among other things. In 1966, Graham said, “Either at a certain moment in evolution God breathed into one particular ape-man who was Adam, or God could have taken a handful of dust and created a man just like that” (“Cooperative Evangelism at Harringay,” United Church Observer, July 1966). Many have, in turn, been corrupted by Graham’s writings. For example, Carol Arends, contemporary worship musician, was influenced by Graham to believe in theistic evolution and she eventually stopped believing that the Bible is 100% the inspired Word of God. She subsequently corrupted her own son and others (Arends blog, “I don’t Know Exactly How the World Was Created,” Nov. 19, 2012).
In 1986, Bill Gaither testified that he had changed his musical style due to the influence of the “world’s culture.” Listening to worldly music and associating closely with worldly musicians changed his heart and mind. Gaither said he had come to believe that there is a place for Christian rock: “God speaks through all different kinds of art forms and musical styles and musical forms” (FBF News Bulletin, March-April 1986, p. 3). The result of this compromise was widespread corruption within the ranks of Southern Gospel.
Multitudes have been corrupted by evil communications in liberal education, whether secular public schools or liberal theological institutions. Consider J.C. Ryle’s son, Herbert. J.C. Ryle was a prominent bishop in the Church of England who believed in the infallible inspiration of Scripture and fought against liberalism. His son, Herbert, attended Cambridge and sat under the teaching of liberals such as William Robertson Smith and renounced the faith of his father. After being appointed a professor at Cambridge and a bishop, Herbert helped destroy everything his father had tried to build up. “In 1888 he became the Hulsean Professor at Cambridge and in that position he allied himself with the view advocated by Robertson Smith and others that, ‘The new learning could afford a firm foundation for Christian belief to which the old theory of verbal inspiration, irretrievably shattered by the advance of human knowledge, could never make good its claim again’” (Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, p. 193). Evangelist D.L. Moody’s son, Paul, was educated at liberal Yale University, New College Edinburgh, and Glasgow College, was corrupted by theological liberalism and renounced the faith of his father. This has happened countless times.
Many have been led astray into Roman Catholicism through the evil communications of studying the “church fathers,” attending mass, practicing contemplative prayer, and associating with Roman Catholics in ecumenical ventures such as Right to Life campaigns. Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Presbyterians who joined the Roman Catholic Church, were influenced by the church fathers. Kimberly told how that Scott studied the “church fathers” when he was still a Presbyterian minister. “Scott gained many insights from the early Church Fathers, some of which he shared in his sermons. This was rather unexpected for both of us, because we had hardly ever read the early Church Fathers when we were in seminary. In fact, in our senior year we had complained loudly to friends about possible creeping Romanism when a course was offered by an Anglican priest on the early Church Fathers. Yet here was Scott quoting them in sermons! One night Scott came out of his study and said, ‘Kimberly, I have to be honest. I don’t know how long we are going to be Presbyterians’” (Rome Sweet Rome, p. 56). Thomas Howard is another famous Protestant convert to Rome. Howard is from a family of prominent evangelicals. He was a professor at Gordon College. His father, Philip, was editor of the Sunday School Times; his brother David Howard was head of the World Evangelical Fellowship; and his sister Elizabeth married the famous missionary Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. In his 1984 book Evangelical Is Not Enough, Howard called upon evangelicals to study the church fathers. The next year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church. The church fathers were also instrumental in the conversion of Peter Kreeft to Rome from the Dutch Reformed denomination. Kreeft, a very influential Catholic apologist, studied the church fathers as a student at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He writes: “My adventurous half rejoiced when I discovered in the early Church such Catholic elements as the centrality of the Eucharist, the Real Presence, prayers to saints, devotion to Mary, an insistence on visible unity, and apostolic succession. Furthermore, THE CHURCH FATHERS JUST ‘SMELLED’ MORE CATHOLIC THAN PROTESTANT, especially St. Augustine, my personal favorite and a hero to most Protestants too. It seemed very obvious that if Augustine or Jerome or Ignatius of Antioch or Anthony of the Desert, or Justin Martyr, or Clement of Alexandria, or Athanasius were alive today they would be Catholics, not Protestants” (“Hauled Aboard the Ark,” http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm). Kreeft is absolutely right. Many of the “church fathers” do smell more Catholic than Protestant! Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid, and The Road to Rome, edited by Dwight Longenecker, and Journeys Home, edited by Marcus Grodi contain many examples of this phenomenon. One of the testimonies is by Sharon Mann, who says, “I started reading the early Church Fathers and realized that whatever they believed, they surely were not Protestant. Catholic themes peppered the landscape of Church history. I couldn’t deny it...” (Journeys Home, 1997, p. 88). Indeed, Catholic themes do pepper the landscape of the “church fathers,” and this should be a warning to stay away from them. Mann should have compared the writings of the church fathers to the infallible truth in the Bible and rejected them as heretics. Instead, she allowed the “church fathers” to stir up her curiosity about Roman Catholicism and she ended up at a mass. There she had a powerful emotional experience when the crowd knelt to idolatrously “adore” the blessed host as it passed by in its “monstrance.” She began weeping and her throat tightened and she couldn’t swallow. She said: “That weekend left a very powerful imprint on my heart, and I found myself running out of good arguments to stay Protestant. My heart was longing to be Catholic and be restored to the unity with all Christendom” (Journeys Home, p. 89). When she speaks of the Lord passing by, she is referring to the Catholic doctrine that the wafer or host of the Mass becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus when it is blessed by the priest and thereafter it is worshipped as Jesus Himself.
R.A. Torrey, famous fundamentalist evangelist and educator, was nearly shipwrecked by attending liberal schools. After his conversion, he unwisely entered Yale Divinity School (1875-1878) where he was influenced by the writings of liberals like Edward Gibbon and W. Robertson Smith. He said, “I became utterly unsettled in my faith, and doubted whether the Bible was the Word of God, whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God and whether there was any God. I was utterly at sea.” Upon graduation, he believed the Bible contains errors and held to universalism in salvation. He considered the Second Coming of Christ to be “impractical and visionary” and didn’t preach it. Next he studied at liberal German universities (1882-1883) and was further swayed toward higher criticism. Unlike most others who enter the devil’s trap, Torrey recovered his faith, but it was a hard battle. “He sat down at his table and put his head between his hands. It seemed as if it would burst. As he pondered the issues, it seemed as if a real voice spoke, ‘Reuben, I know some things which you cannot know.’ From that moment on Reuben decided to accept by faith the hypothesis--and at this point it was just that, an hypothesis--that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God. Both practically and intellectually he decided, ‘I will follow the Bible wherever it leads me.’ Slowly but surely he moved away from the critical approach to the Scriptures, and accepted the ‘old truth’ in the ‘old garb’” (Martin, R.A. Torrey Apostle of Certainty).
Consider Charles and Frances Hunter, who were radical charismatics who taught heresies such as the promise of physical healing, spirit slaying, ecumenism, and “holy laughter.” They weren’t always charismatics. When they first began dabbling around with Pentecostalism, they felt in their hearts that it wasn’t biblical, but they ignored their conscience and the Bible and were captured. The following is from their autobiographical account: “...when Charles and I were married and we began TO NIBBLE AROUND where the Holy Spirit was concerned, we saw 'those' people with both hands raised! ... Whenever you begin to nibble, however, sooner or later you're going to get caught! ... We began to hear a lot about a woman named Kathryn Kuhlman. ... What was this peculiar, unspiritual thing that made her push them all down ["slaying in the Spirit"]? We rejected it, of course, but our hungry little 'SPIRITUAL PIG' HEARTS drew us to one of her [Kathryn Kuhlman] meetings the next morning after the experience at the Charismatic Conference. I [Frances Hunter] stepped into the aisle. She merely said, 'Jesus, bless my sister,' and bless me He did! Faster than you can blink an eye, I was lying on my back on the floor of the First Presbyterian Church in my very best dress. ... All the arguments I previously had about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking with other tongues disappeared instantly! We went to a Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship banquet in Houston. ... The man [the speaker] said, 'Well, Jesus, bless Frances!' Down I went faster than you could blink an eye, followed one second later by my precious husband! ... I tried to get my hands off of the floor, but nothing happened. I couldn't believe what had happened to me, because it was physically impossible for me to move. ... I felt as though someone had given me a divine Alka-Seltzer because way down deep in the very center of my being I began to feel a most peculiar type of 'bubbling.' ... then it abruptly came out of my mouth in the form of the loudest laugh I have ever heard. ... no pressure on my mouth could keep the laughing back. I laughed, laughed, laughed and laughed. ... I stopped laughing just as quickly as I started, and suddenly I was released from the bed of Holy Ghost glue in which I had been resting!” (Holy Laughter, pp. 13, 19, 20, 21-23). This type of thing has been repeated countless times when people have ignored the warning of God’s Word and dabbled around with error. The Hunters should have known from 1 Timothy 2:12 that Kathryn Kuhlman was not called of God to preach to men. They should have known from 1 Corinthians 14:33 that the disturbing confusion of charismatic meetings is not of God. They should have known from 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 that tongues were a sign to Israel. They should have known from the book of Acts that genuine tongues speaking is not something that can be learned and is not mere gibberish. They should have known from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that women are not to exercise ministry gifts in the services in the presence of men. They should have known from Matthew 12:39 that we are not to seek after miracles, because “an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” The Hunters ignored the clear teaching of the Word of God, played around with error, and blundered into the world of charismatic chaos and spiritual delusion. Today you don’t have to go to a healing crusade or a preaching meeting led by a female preacher; you can find them on YouTube. You don’t have to go to a bookstore to find Pentecostal books; you can find tons of their misleading material on the internet for free. The same is true for any other error. To mark and avoid does not mean to visit their web sites and blogs and Facebook pages and YouTube channels!
The New Evangelical philosophy that has been popular since the 1940s and has nearly completely taken over evangelical Christianity, ignores the warning of 1 Corinthians 15:33 and advocates association with error. The fruit has been exactly what Paul said it would be. It has corrupted good manners. Charles Woodbridge warned that toleration of error produces “the downward path of accommodation to error, cooperation with error, contamination by error, and ultimate capitulation to error” (The New Evangelicalism, 1969). Consider Harold Ockenga, who coined the term “neo-evangelical.” On February 28, 1959, only a decade after renouncing “separatism” and determining to associate with liberals and other heretics, Ockenga held the 150th anniversary service of Park Street Church in Boston, of which he was the pastor. Speakers included Dana McLean Greely, president of the American Unitarian Association, Charles H. Buck, Jr., modernist dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, and Erwin Canham, editor of the Christian Science Monitor. The Latin America Mission was founded in 1921 by fundamentalist Harry Strachan and was a popular project of fundamentalists through the 1940s. In the 1950s it was captured by New Evangelical “no separatism, big tent” philosophy and the result was the influx of modernist doctrine. By 1961, the rank Presbyterian modernist John Mackay brought the Harry Strachan Memorial Lectures at the Latin America Mission’s Bible Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica (William Ashbrook, Evangelicalism The New Neutralism, p. 35). The book New Evangelicalism: It History, Characteristics, and Fruit, contains extensive documentation of how that evil communications has corrupted good manners. It is available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.
Consider Evangelist Jack Van Impe. He was a biblical separatist and a “fundamentalist” in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the early 1980s he renounced separatism and broadened his associations in every direction. By 1984, he was so spiritually blind that he was promoting unity even with the Roman Catholic Church, writing, “God comes into the heart of Catholics, and Lutherans, and Baptists, and Pentecostals, and with God in us, we can fellowship with one another” (Van Impe, Heart Disease in the Body of Christ). By 1992 Van Impe was praising Pope John Paul II, and the next year he published Startling Revelations: Pope John Paul II, promoting the pope as a great warrior of the Christian faith!
Consider Evangelist James Robison. In the 1970s he was a bold Southern Baptist Bible preacher, sounding a clear warning against theological liberalism in the schools and compromise and worldliness in the churches. In 1980, he became ecumenical in his associations and was soon radically changed in his thinking and principles. In 1987 at the North American Congress on the Holy Spirit Robison praised the pope, saying, “I tell you what, one of the finest moral representatives of morality in this earth right now is the pope. People who know it really believe he is a born again man.” I was sitting only a few feet away from him when he said this, attending the conference with media credentials. In July 2014, James Robison and his wife, Betty, joined seven other charismatics at the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis. Most recently, Robison recommended the movie The Shack, which promotes a non-judgmental female God, universalism, and many other rank heresies.
Many have found social media to be the path to evil communications. Recently in our weekly men’s discipleship meeting I asked the roughly 30 men to raise their hands if they have used social media. Most hands were raised. I then asked how many have given up social media, and again most hands were raised, for which we thank the Lord. I asked why they had given it up, and one after the other testified that it was because of the evil communications that had harmed their Christian lives: wrong friends, worldly music, vanity, gossip, deceit, pornography, distraction from the things of God, etc. They talked about being addicted, losing sleep, trying to create an attractive social media image of themselves, and other such things. Consider the following testimonies about the evil communications of social media: “Facebook was a huge hindrance to my spiritual life. It didn’t happen right away. Sin slowly slithered in until I was far from the Lord. I don’t even know it happened until too late. I deleted my FB account over three years ago and have not missed it.” “I found that Facebook caused my heart to be on things other than spiritual things. My mind, when I woke up, was on what I missed throughout the night since I lived in a different time zone than many of my ‘friends.’ When I went to bed, I’d want to ‘check in’ one last time.” “As far as Facebook I have completely and happily quit going there for 2 years now. The family thinks I’m nuts, but they are mostly unsaved. ... Facebook entices to sin, gossip, seeing nakedness, filthy talking, fornication and all manner of vices, and takes precious time away from reading Scripture, listening to sermons, or reading articles and commentaries. Facebook can take a person on mindless journeys for hours through photos and family secrets ... I love being on an email list so I can pay attention to the article at hand only and not other things to distract me. Facebook is a plague. Sorry for my boldness, but I really hate Facebook.”
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