Deceiving Spirits

Paul, after speaking about the Church of the living God—the pillar and foundation of truth—inserts a parenthetical remark about the historical visit of Jesus on earth (see 1 Timothy 3:16). Then he says, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (4:1).

Paul’s parenthetical insertion in 1 Timothy 3:16 was to draw attention to Christ, which is the major work of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:14). Christians believe deeply in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If there were no Holy Spirit, there would be no life, no power to live, no gifts, no guidance, no assurance and no Church. However, we are to be Christ-centered, not spirit-centered. We are to be truth-based, not experienced-based.

 “The Spirit” is to be contrasted with “deceiving spirits.” There is only one Holy Spirit, but there are many deceiving spirits who are demons or evil spirits. Paul is not telling us by way of parables or by signs and wonders; he is clearly saying there is a coming apostasy in the later days. Concerning the end times, Jesus said, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:24-25; see also 2 Peter 2:1-12).

Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and pastors routinely work with people who are struggling with their thoughts, are having difficulty concentrating, or are hearing voices. Many cannot read their Bibles or concentrate when they pray or worship God. The voices are usually condemning or blasphemous. Such voices and thoughts cannot be fully explained as a neurological condition or a chemical imbalance.

How can a chemical produce a personality or create a thought that we are opposed to thinking? Is there a natural explanation for this? Why not believe what Scripture has taught and then take the appropriate measures to correct the problem? If the condemning, lying and blasphemous thoughts leave after we submit to God and resist the devil (see James 4:7), then the origin of the thoughts is not natural or neurological. Believers all over the world have found such relief from oppressive thoughts through genuine repentance (see the Steps to Freedom in Christ). The peace of God is now guarding their hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:7).

Doctrines of demons “come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2). They profess to believe one thing but live another way. They have no conscience. They are modern-day Gnostics who advocate an ascetic form of life (see Colossians 2:16-23). Their message is abstinence from things such as marriage and food, but Paul counters by saying, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4).

Food is the “enemy” for those who struggle with eating disorders. Why do they defecate, binge and purge, and even cut themselves? Because they believe there is evil present within them (see Romans 7:21), but their efforts to rid themselves of that evil are fruitless. Only the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can cleanse them from sin. It is all deception, and only truth can set them free.

Dr. Neil

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