“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.”
Ephesians 4:14 NLT
This verse starts with a “then”. So we have to look to the previous verses to pick up the thread of what Paul was saying to his friends in Ephesus. He had previously encouraged them with the thought that Christ cared so much for them that He had sent to them “gifts” – men who would equip them with all they needed to grow in their faith, bringing unity and maturity to their lives, individually and corporately. Paul then follows on with the thought that being “immature like children“, at least in the context of their faith, was not a good place to be. But the next sentence exposes and highlights a potential and very real danger for Christians, especially new believers. It is the impact that “new teaching” can have, potentially leading them into error.
For example, a church I read about some years ago, took the verse in Mark 16:18 which starts, “They will be able to handle snakes with safety….” consequently introducing poisonous snakes into their services. It is very easy to lift Bible verses out of their context and start to make a doctrine or custom from them, ending up being “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching”. That is why the church has always needed the wisdom of the five-fold ministries described in a previous verse. Paul, from his prison cell, could see the dangers and snares that could potentially bring chaos and ultimate destruction. He cared deeply for his friends. But we should never forget that God Himself cares very deeply for each one of us. Not only is He always there for us, but He has put in place a safety net to protect His people.
“…lies so clever they sound like the truth”. This is a problem that has always been with us. Why is it that people generally lack the discernment needed to expose trickery? In modern parlance we call it “scamming”. I read yesterday that a man lost his entire savings – hundreds of thousands of pounds – because he believed “lies so clever they sound like the truth”. But in the church we need to be aware of spiritual scamming. The internet is awash with off-the-wall beliefs and recommendations. The “God” channels on television sometimes provide opportunities for fringe preachers to scam their watchers with incessant appeals for money.
But how does the Christian pilgrim continue through life, free from the pitfalls of error? How can we avoid being “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching”? There are some simple steps that we can take to stay on the “straight and narrow”. One of them is to get plugged into a church founded on the Word and the Spirit. There is safety in being with other pilgrims in a Godly church, where the leaders are Spirit-filled men and women grounded and obedient to God’s Word, the Bible. On our own we are in danger of being picked off by the devil. 1 Peter 5:8 reads, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” When we meet with other Christians we can encourage each other, pray for each other, help each other, and have the opportunity to warn those in danger of taking a wrong spiritual turning.
Another way to protect ourselves from error is to ensure the church that we are a part of is accountable to other church leaders or apostles. Established denominations are not necessarily free from problems – depressing errors include spiritual apostasy, liberalism and worldliness. Spiritual accountability is essential in bringing security to the congregation and their leaders
Another way to prevent being “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” is to emulate the Berean Jews. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas found themselves preaching in a synagogue in Berea. And we read in Acts 17:11, “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth”. If someone brings teaching we haven’t heard before, check it out in the Bible. If what is said, no matter how plausible it appears to be, can’t be verified by God’s Word, then discard it.
Although today’s verse has negative connotations, we mustn’t forget our loving Heavenly Father. He cares for us. He loves us. He is with us every step in our pilgrimage through life. Jesus said in John 15:4, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you…”. In the end, that is the key. We pilgrims will find peace and security, as we remain in Him.