The New Testament is full of exhortations to guard against error. There are warnings about false doctrine, false prophets/teachers, lying signs, and other types of destructive influences.
The devil is always at work trying to get inroads into the church. I have noticed that he is multi-faceted in his approach. Just like he tried multiple ways of tempting Jesus, he will try various methods of getting error into God’s people.
Below are some ways that error can come into the church.
The devil is a master deceiver. Revelation 12:9 gives him this description: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” He is the “serpent of old”—the one who came to Adam and Eve to deceive them into turning against God and eating from the wrong tree. He is described as the one who “deceives the whole world.”
While the devil’s primary motive is destruction, his primary method is deception. Error comes into the church when just enough truth is mixed into a lie to make it sound reasonable.
If the enemy cannot get us to embrace error through deception, he will often try to get us to embrace it through reaction. What can happen is that believers rightly recognize an error, but then react to it in such a way as to fall into another error. Here is the key to what I mean: reaction to error leads to error.
Some have observed abuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then reacted to take the belief that the gifts are no longer for today. Some have come out of legalistic backgrounds and reacted to the point where they deny the need for holiness and accept a cheap grace that makes a license sin. Some have been hurt by controlling leadership and then react to the point of denying the value of leadership altogether. The list could go on and on.
Do not fall into the trap of reacting to error! Instead of reacting to error we need to respond to the revelation of truth found in God’s Word.
Another way that error can creep into the church is through isolation. I am not referring to believers being isolated from other believers—although that can be a source of error. I am referring to truths from the Bible that get isolated from out of their context or from the whole of God’s Word.
Any truth that gets isolated from the whole counsel of Scripture becomes an error. Holiness without grace becomes legalism. Grace without holiness becomes license to sin. The power of faith can turn into a formula for getting selfish desires when isolated from the whole counsel of God. Again, many examples could be given.
It is important to understand the truths of Scripture in their context and in light of the overall story of God throughout the Bible. Otherwise, we can easily fall into error.
Let’s be on guard against deception, reaction, isolation, and other ways that the enemy may try to get into our lives. If we stay grounded in the Word and close to the Holy Spirit, we will have discernment to recognize error when we see it!