Doing Church, Part 7 – Ephesians 4:14
In part 6 of this series on Doing Church, we considered what we are seeking to avoid in “doing church.”
In Ephesians 4:14 Paul writes, As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
We seek to avoid remaining spiritual infants by growing to spiritual maturity that is the product of sound doctrine and knowing Christ. Spiritual infants are prone to being tossed around like waves on the sea and carried around by the latest fad in doctrine and ministry.
Today we continue to look at what Paul says characterizes false teaching and false teachers.
False Teaching is Trickery in Action
Paul first characterizes false teaching this way: carried about… by the trickery of men.
The word Paul uses for trickery is literally “dice-playing.” In the language of Paul’s day, it was used as an idiom for “playing with loaded dice.” In other words, false teaching, which spiritual infants are frighteningly easy to submit to, is like playing with loaded dice. For the false teachers, their desired outcome is secure. All they need to do is follow the proven formula, and they will successfully accomplish their goals.
Paul further identifies the formula of false teachers in the next phrase.
False Teaching Operates according to a “Whatever Works” Mentality
Next, Paul writes: carried about… by craftiness or readiness to do anything.
The word here is a little used word that combines two Greek that are roughly translated every and work. In other words, the standard for false teachers is “whatever works.” They are pragmatic in their approach. So, they will say whatever they need to say and do whatever they need to do to accomplish their goals.
Our Lord experienced this kind of thing in Luke 20:20-26 when the religious authorities in Jerusalem sent spies amongst the disciples with the goal of trying to get Jesus to say something that would indict Him. So they tried to flatter Jesus before asking a question about paying taxes to Rome. But Luke notes in verse 23 that Jesus saw through their craftiness. In other words, Jesus perceived that these men were in pragmatism mode. Whatever ethical principles that may have governed them in other circumstances, these men had shed those in order to accomplish their goal of arresting Jesus with His own words.
This is the kind of conduct that false teachers regularly practice.
Alternatively, faithful teachers abhor and reject this kind of mentality in favor of clearly and accurately presenting the truth. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:2, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
Spiritual infants are in danger of being taken in by the flattery and fluidity of pragmatism because they lack solid biblical footing. Only by pursuing growth in sound doctrine for the purpose of knowing Christ can these infants be protected from false teaching.
Paul has more to say on this point of false teaching as he gets to the heart of the matter in the final phrase of verse 14. But we will save that for the next post.