While in some ways this is a sad lesson, it is a vitally important one. We have seen in Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 3, Prophets and Prophecy Were Vitally Important how fundamental prophecy was to the newly established church. Part of the Apostles Tradition is that while they were there, after they passed, and in later times, that the gospel would be attacked, and they prophesied this. This attack is both from without, and within. The church is to be mindful and look out for doctrines and tradition that are contrary to the Apostles’ doctrine and traditions.
But before we get into the verses, this point must be made. The material we will look at talks about grievous wolves destroying the flock, people from without and within the church teaching perverted, misinterpreted things, and the source of these things being seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. These are very serious charges, and something that has happened and will happen until the Lord comes.
But that is not an indictment of everyone in all the churches that teach erroneous doctrine by any stretch of the imagination. When Jesus was talking about the bad impact of the tradition of the elders, he wasn’t talking necessarily talking about the Jews in the seats. He was talking about the Pharisees and leaders that promoted the traditions over the actual word of God. In fact, there are many, many good Christian souls who love God and love people in many churches. For a large part, these saints are just following the tradition they have been taught. Or they may have been brought to Christ but when it comes to the meat of the word of God, they don’t really know what to believe. So many may know Jesus and they may be certain about some things, but beyond that, they don’t what to believe. Look at Theology Is As Clear As Mud To Americans in 2020 which shows the less than stellar theological prowess of a lot of American Christians. I have talked with people who taught Sunday School or classes from books given them who themselves were just as like to be tossed to and fro by the winds of doctrine as the people they taught, certain on some things and not certain on others. A lot of people give their time and resources to help the church because they do have a loving heart. And last, but not least, I have talked to pastors who have admitted to me that they pretty much only know what they have been taught, that with the demands of their congregation they don’t have time to investigate a lot of the things that people like me bring up, and may have very little time for study and research beyond what their denomination or association promotes. There is grace, mercy, and peace in the way of the Lord, and this area is no exception.
Nevertheless, what I show here is from what the word of God calls the apostles’ tradition. Here are the first issues and verses in this area:
Twisting scripture was happening while the Apostles were alive:
I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different “good news”; and there isn’t another “good news.” Only there are some who trouble you, and want to pervert the Good News of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any “good news” other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any “good news” other than that which you received, let him be cursed. (Gal 1:6-9 WEB)
These verses are talking about some serious stuff. “Let him be cursed” is what is called a divine passive. That simply means that God is causing what’s going on. And in this case, what is going on, is someone being cursed by God! So, what was going on?
In Paul’s time, the Galatians were being proselytized by “Judaizers”. He cites this as an example of perverting the gospel which means changed from its true meaning. Paul explains all this later in Galatians starting with emphasizing the truth that we are justified by works in chapter 2. He emphasizes that the righteous live by faith in chapter 3. In chapter 5 Paul exhorts the Galatians to walk free of the law, and reject the premise that Christians need to be circumcised. Rather, he says to walk in the Spirit. And he wraps up the argument in chapter 6. This is an example of what the Apostles taught being twisted and then the twisted gospel being taught while the apostles were alive.
The book of second Peter puts the writings of the apostle Paul on the level of Scripture.
Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware, lest being carried away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness. (2Pe 3:15-17 WEB)
The above verse says what Paul wrote was wisdom given to him. This is an attestation that what Paul was teaching he received by revelation which he also says in different places in his writings. This verse says that some were twisting Paul’s words to their own destruction. Here is another place where Paul declares that what he is writing is revelation.
But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the Good News which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal 1:11-12 WEB)
Now, this is the same as “Thus says the Lord”. It is the declaration of a prophet who is also an apostle and teacher. This is different than just an eyewitness account of what someone says. Paul is saying that what he taught by word and by letter is the word of God.
Here is another verse that says that people were rationalized away from the faith in Apostolic times:
Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge; which some profess, and thus have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1Ti 6:20-21 WEB)
2 Peter 3:15-17 above also says that some of the things that Paul wrote are difficult to understand, and sometimes some people, including believers, twist the things that Paul wrote. To twist words means to say words that mean something different than what the author meant when he wrote them. It does not say that these twisted words just come from outside the churches, in fact, we see that some of the word twisters come from within the churches. We are to be wary and steadfast because if we are not, we can be called away by the twisted words of the wicked. Wicked in our day and time usually means bad witches in horror stories or murderers but wicked in scripture just means criminal or lawless, someone who goes against God’s setup and His way of doing things. When we act out rebelliously, we are being wicked. It doesn’t mean there is necessarily sorcery or evil spells, it means we are choosing to do things that God says are not holy and we know better. Doing something that God says is not holy is a sin. Making it part of your life is being sinful. A life that allows for all kinds of sins is a wicked or evil life. Sins aren’t just things like getting drunk, promiscuous sex, lying, stealing, and murder although all of those are sins. Sin in its definition means to miss the mark. It means to do differently than what God wanted. Doing what you want to do instead of asking God for guidance is missing the mark or sin. Choosing the ways of the world instead of the ways God wants us to live as he wrote through the prophets and the apostles is sin. Can you see that following Christian tradition that opposes the apostles’ traditions is also evil? It’s missing the mark. There’s a holy life which is God’s way. And there’s an evil or wicked way which is sinful, a life constantly missing the mark.
This may be hard for some people to see because the people we’re may be talking about are pastors and leaders in churches. It’s easy to see sinners as just brawlers, drunkards, murderers, and thieves. But we are looking at verses here that are talking about Bible teachers being called wicked because they are teaching that Christians must follow the law or other things contrary to the apostles’ traditions. It doesn’t say they murdered anyone or stole from anyone, but they are wicked nonetheless. The worldly definition of wicked or evil has the implication of being extremely morally reprehensible. Theologians define the words with the implication that the person is consciously being sinful. Scripture just calls all sin evil, even unintentional ones, and all following the Lord rightly as righteous.
And, to be honest, this could be any one of us at different times in our lives. I was at one time a good Catholic boy promoting the supremacy of the Pope, seven sacraments, praying to the Virgin Mother for intercession, and promulgating that the gifts of the spirit having ceased with the apostles, but I came to see that I was promoting a gospel different than the apostles’ traditions with those beliefs. At different times after that, I embraced different doctrines including ecumenism, the in essentials unity doctrine, the requirement of tithing, that also I have come to see were not in the apostles’ traditions. I was well-intentioned, but I was evil or sinful nonetheless because I was promoting things different than the traditions of the apostles.
I was only doing as I was being taught, but I was still wrong. Facing the reality that we have to recognize sin in our lives, wherever it is, is a clear message from Scripture.
This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we haven’t sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:5-10 WEB)
The greatness of Jesus Christ is that he is our advocate because we live in these earthen vessels that are still part of the realm of the evil one so when we sin, we can confess our sin, then we are forgiven and cleansed of all sin. But if we say we don’t have sin then we are being evil.
Yes, grace abounds towards us in that because of what Christ accomplished we can sin and be forgiven. But at the same time there is a clear message in Scripture that when we see sin in our lives that we stop.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (Rom 6:1-2 WEB)
While we are talking about us being sinful at times the truth is still that there is no condemnation to us in Christ Jesus when we are walking in the spirit as it says in Romans chapter 8.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1 WEB)
Back to 2 Peter, what does it mean to twist the scriptures? It can be subtle things. It means to tell people that scripture means something different than what it says and really means. Here’s an example:
An example is “John indeed baptized with water, But Jesus will baptize with the Holy Ghost” which is a simple enough sentence. See T 1.8 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 8, The Spirit Baptism Mandate, John Baptized With Water, But You Will Be Baptized with the Holy Spirit for more. What is being contrasted there is baptism with water and baptism with Holy Spirit. That sentence contrasts water and spirit as the medium of baptism. Those are the words in the sentence. But I have heard men preach that the word baptize itself automatically infers water so when it says Jesus will baptize with Holy Spirit, there is still water in that baptism so it is really water and spirit. That is also twisting Scripture. Baptize means wash and while you may most commonly wash with water, you can wash with dry cleaning fluid, solvents, sand, alcohol, and other things because there are things that should never be exposed to water like leather, furniture, wood products, electrical components and more. Jesus washes with Spirit. If you want to translate baptize even as dip, things are dipped in things other than water. Things are dipped in a fire in metallurgy to purify them which is the figure of speech used in baptize with fire. The verse says John washed or baptized with water, Jesus will wash or baptize with spirit. Or John dipped in water but Jesus will dip in spirit. If the word baptize assumes water then “baptize in water” is an oxymoron, but it’s not because the Greek word baptizo which is transliterated baptize just means to wash and it is translated wash in a few verses in Mark. Here’s one:
They don’t eat when they come from the marketplace unless they bathe themselves, and there are many other things, which they have received to hold to: washings of cups, pitchers, bronze vessels, and couches.) (Mar 7:4 WEB)
There is no water in the following verse. The baptism of Jesus pours the spirit into each one of us and unites us into one body.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. (1Co 12:13 WEB)
How about the twisting of this verse?
Yet I wish that all men were like me. However each man has his own gift from God, one of this kind, and another of that kind. (1Co 7:7 WEB)
This verse refers to it being a gift to be single. When I was a young man in the Catholic Church, I was interested in serving in the priesthood. Part of that verse, “I wish that all men were like me” was presented to me by a priest as a young teenager as the basis for me and others to remain celibate my whole life in order to serve God. Somehow, this priest said, it was God’s will for all priests to follow Paul’s example and be celibate. That is twisting scripture because next it says, however, each man has his own gift, meaning some people have the gift to be celibate and others don’t. Elsewhere it says it is better to marry than to burn. You either have the gift of celibacy or you don’t and I didn’t. That was twisting scripture. That Catholic priest twisted scripture to try to get me to believe otherwise. To the sadness of some Catholics, I recognized that I liked girls too much to be able to commit to a life of celibacy.
This next Scripture is also talking about something going on in the time of the apostles. It says causes of the divisions among the churches include arguments, disputes, and word battles by people puffed up by their own knowledge. It also points to the false doctrine that material gain is tied to godliness.
If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such. (1Ti 6:3-5 WEB)
This warning applies as much today as it did back then.
We’ve been talking about Scripture being twisted in the time of the apostles. Here’s prophecy on how the apostles’ doctrine will get twisted by some in the future.
For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn away to fables. (2Ti 4:3-4 WEB)
And this next prophecy is about what will happen right after the time of the apostles.
For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore watch, remembering that for a period of three years I didn’t cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears. (Act 20:29-31 WEB)
The warning here is to watch. The Scripture says there that it will be vicious wolves who enter, indicating probably an attack from the outside. The use of the word wolves is a figure of speech symbolizing the destruction of the faith these people do. But it also says, “Men will arise from your own selves, speaking perverse things…” Arise from your own selves means it’s not secular and it’s not from without. It’s from within the church! I am not the one saying this. These are Paul’s words! Paul is saying that there are people in the church that will teach twisted things.
If you have a problem with them you have a problem with Paul who wrote most of the New Testament and was given the administration of the grace of God which is the church we belong to. Paul said some of these word twisters will come from church ranks.
Again, perverse in this verse doesn’t mean sexually obscene, it means distorted or misinterpreted. That means that it is people from the church who are teaching misinterpreted doctrine. It really can’t be any plainer, people will arise from the church speaking distorted things. Those people are from the church and they are teaching wrong things. The church is not infallible. Part of the stewardship of the church is guarding against this twisting of doctrine.
Another Example of Twisting Scripture
For example, there are no commands in scripture to abstain from alcoholic drinks totally. There is a vow that individuals abstain from alcoholic drinks but that is an individual choice not a commandment of the Lord. (I discuss this much further in Drinking Alcohol.) Yet I have heard more than one preacher take the verse “wine is a mocker” and use it to define all drinking as taboo. I have heard the statement that “no godly person puts alcohol to their lips”. This is making abstinence from alcohol equal to godliness. In this scheme the way to gain godliness is to abstain from alcohol which is not a requirement in scripture. That is twisting scripture.
There is an expression “cleanliness is next to godliness.” This is an expression that equates a form of living, in this case, cleanliness, as a means of gain. Cleanliness is not Christianity. Abstaining from alcohol, or never marrying, is not Christianity. That does not mean that it’s wrong to be clean, or that people with alcohol problems shouldn’t join AA, or that people who have chosen to be single are wrong, they are just not requirements for Christianity. In fact, as far as those elements go, Christian doctrine says marriage is between a man and a woman, only the marriage bed is undefiled, not to be drunk but filled with the spirit, and that all things should be done decently and in order.
So, we have in the writings left us by the apostles prophecies that during the Apostles ministries on earth, right after the apostles passing, and in future times there would be people both from within and without the church that would teach things different than the apostles. The charge to follow the Apostles tradition is the standard set in original Christianity.
One of the goals of this website is to both look at what happened in the time of original Christianity, and then to follow events in times after that that show what happened to help contribute to the huge number of divisions in the church. We have already looked at one in T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine. In that article we look at how in original Christianity the emphasis was that the whole counsel of God was important whereas in modern times “the in essentials unity Doctrine” waters down the whole counsel of God to a list of “essentials” that everyone can agree on.
We will be looking at more in the future.