Scripture and the Church

Satan's Strategy to Diminish God's Word

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
How does corruption of the pure Word of God happen in the church? The Bible leaves no room for doubt: It is the work of Satan, who falsely asserts the insufficiency of Scripture alone.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 2 of a series. Read part 1.

How does corruption of the pure Word of God happen in the church? The Bible leaves no room for doubt: It is the work of Satan, who falsely asserts the insufficiency of Scripture alone.

In this series we are focusing our attention on God's command to the prophet Jeremiah to speak "all the words that I command you to speak...Do not diminish a word." As we have seen, the fuller sense of Jehovahâ??s command in the original language is this: "Do not omit, restrain, or withdraw a single word." Jeremiah obeyed God's command, even at the repeated risk of his life.

"I Kept Back Nothing"

In the same manner, when the Apostle Paul was saying his farewell to the elders of Ephesus, he said this to them:

I kept back nothing that was helpful [profitable], but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21)

The word translated "helpful" (NKJV) or "profitable" (KJV) is the Greek symphero, which indicates the profitability of bringing various elements together; the effectiveness of the sum of things. The implication is that profitability entails leaving nothing out. Paul's preaching and teaching were the same for Jews and for Gentiles - nothing kept back based on ethnicity. And in verse 27 of the same chapter, Paul writes:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God.

More literally, Paul is saying, "I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" - "I did not retreat" - "I did not back off" - "I did not compromise." The word translated "whole" indicates God's counsel of every kind.

And in Jeremiah chapter 42, verse 4, the prophet says to the people of Judah, whatever the Lord says to me I will declare it unto you. "I will keep nothing back from you."

Satan's Triple Threat to the Word of God

We live in a time when much of God's Word is "kept back" in the church. Many who stand in pulpits today fear to proclaim the whole counsel of God because of what they fear will happen. Some people may be offended; some may leave; giving will be diminished; the material resources to sustain the church's man-centered programs that have supplanted the pure Word of God will dry up.

Why does this corruption happen? The Bible leaves no room for doubt: It is the work of Satan. The Apostle Paul warned the church about three Satanic threats to the Word of God - things that Satan would seek to bring into the church, in order to take the church out of the realm of sound doctrine. Those three things are worldly philosophies, legalism, and man-made doctrines.

The Word of God - Plus

So very often Satan introduces these things into the church with great subtlety. It is not a matter of immediately throwing out the Word of God or overtly speaking against the Word - at least not in the beginning. It is, as often as not, a matter of Satan introducing "the Word of God plus." The insufficiency of Scripture alone. As Satan introduces these things, perhaps very quickly or perhaps over generations and even centuries, the authentic, authoritative Word of God is diminished to the point of irrelevancy in the thinking and life of a church.

Make no mistake: Satan hates the Word of God. The one originally called Lucifer, the great angel created by God, was banished from Heaven because he sought to exalt himself above Christ. Satan desired to have the preeminence in Heaven. Throughout the centuries of history since he fell, Satan has desired to have the preeminence on Earth. And so, Satan seeks to undermine and destroy the life and testimony of the Christian as an individual, and of the church as a body. Satan does this by seeking to undermine the Word of God. And so, the Apostle Paul defends the preeminence of Christ and His Word in Colossians chapter 2 by invalidating these three elements of the Satanic strategy.

Worldly Philosophy

First, in Colossians 2:1-10, Paul defends the preeminence of Christ and His Word against the evil of worldly philosophy. Pagan philosophy was a threat to the church in the time of the Colossians, and pagan philosophy is just as much of a threat to the church today. What do we find in much of the present-day church? We find man's word, man's wisdom, man's methods, and man's idols, being promoted in place of Christ's Word, Christ's wisdom, and Christ's ordained methods. In so doing, man puts himself in the rightful place of Jesus Christ. Truly, in these ways sinful man exalts himself above Christ. Because Jesus Christ is and must be preeminent in His true Church, there is no place, no room, for worldly philosophy in it.

Legalism

Secondly, in Colossians 2:11-17, Paul defends the preeminence of Christ and His Word against the evil of legalism. In the time of the Colossians, there were those who wanted to drag the church back under the burdens of the Law. Many people in the visible church want to do that today. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy have done it for over a thousand years.

Those who would do this want to effectively deny what God's Word plainly states: Christ has put the requirements of the Law to death. Paul declares that Christ has nailed the requirements of the Law to the Cross, because He has fulfilled those requirements on our behalf, and He has atoned for our repeated and continual violations of His Law. Just as there is no room for worldly philosophy in Christ's true Church, there is no place for legalism.

Man-Made Doctrines

Thirdly, in Colossians 2:18-23, Paul defends the preeminence of Christ and His Word against the evil of man-made doctrines. Once again, this is a manifestation of the problem of sinful man exalting himself above the perfect Christ and His inerrant Word. Satan incites man to establish his own counterfeit authority in place of Christ's rightful authority and headship over the Church. Satan incites man to establish himself as a counterfeit mediator in place of the one true Mediator between God and man. And, Satan incites sinful man to establish counterfeit worship in place of the true worship of Christ in spirit and in truth, and in the beauty of holiness.

Just as there is no place for worldly philosophy in Christ's true Church, and no place for legalism, likewise there is no place for man-made doctrines. The preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Scripture is absolute and all-encompassing.

No Dark Corners

There is no dark corner of the universe, the human heart, or Christ's true Church in which any man, angel, or demon has the right to assert preeminence over Christ or His Word. All things must be yielded up to His preeminence. All must be exposed to and judged by the light of the One who is the Truth:

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:18-21)

 

Next: The Diminished Word in Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy

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