False and harmful teaching is unable to produce Christ-like character and behaviour. It is also dangerous because of the spiritual realities behind it. False teachers are the human agents through whom such heresy is spread. They are “hypocritical liars” (v.2), and do not teach the truth nor practise it. Their consciences have been “seared” (v.2). This is the fourth time Paul mentions the conscience (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5,19, 3:9). The conscience is a moral compass that warns us if we break God’s law, but it can be weakened (1 Corinthians 8:10) by wrong social “programming” and seared by repeated disobedience. It needs to be educated by the Word and the Spirit (Psalm 119:11; John 16:8–11, 17:17; Hebrews 9:13–14, 10:16,22).
A seared conscience has lost its sensitivity (like the way the tongue feels numb after being scalded by boiling soup). It will not “sound the alarm” when its owner dabbles in evil. Paul highlights the spiritual forces of deceiving spirits (demons) at work when someone peddles heresy (v.1). Satan, who specialises in blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4), deploys his minions to deceive and deaden the consciences of false teachers so that they can do much damage in the church. Paul is aware of this and is deeply concerned about it. The Holy Spirit himself had revealed to Paul that in “later times” (or “last days”, referring to the era from Pentecost to Christ’s second coming; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 1:2), such deception would take place, making some “abandon the faith” (v.1) and become apostate (renouncing the faith).
The false teachers taught a misguided asceticism (harsh self-discipline) that denied the creation. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This included the creation of a man and a woman, the institution of marriage, and sex within marriage. The false teachers were forbidding people from marrying (a Gnostic idea) and eating certain foods (a Judaistic idea). The heresies in the early church had such roots that threatened the purity of the gospel, and the joy and well-being of Christians.All good gifts created and instituted by God can be received with prayerful thanksgiving, remembering they were consecrated by God’s Word, for He declared what He had created to be good.
Satan tempts people to eat the “forbidden fruit” (Genesis 3:1–7) or makes them refuse what God has given. How does he do it? What evidence of both deceptions do you find today?
In what ways can the conscience malfunction? How do you think it is educated by the Word and the Spirit? What is the state of your conscience?