To be vigilant against deception one must know both the Bible and the teacher

…evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

2 Timothy 3:13-14

Paul is emphatic with his protoge Timothy, and is cautioning him in being fully aware of the deceivers who were infiltrating the ranks of the fledgling Messianic Kingdom movement. Paul emphasizes that the deceivers would make themselves known not just by their teaching, but by their lifestyles and their actions.

For [these] men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:2-5

These were the corrupt Jews who were coming against the teachings of the Messiah and the apostolic communities that were growing amidst the synagogues of the first century. One has only to read the denunciations or “woes” of Yeshua against these individuals to know who they were.

Matthew 23:15, 23, 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. …
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. …
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Luke 11:42-43, 46, 52 “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. …
And he said, “Woe to you scribes also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. …
Woe to you scribes! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

They were hypocrites; they had “the form of religion but were denying its power” as Paul writes. As a contrast to this corruption, Paul instructs Timothy to look at the example of his own life and conduct.

Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico’nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:10-11, 14-15

There are two parts to vigilance in our understanding of the faith: thoroughly knowing the torah or instruction of God and knowing from whom the Word is being taught. If you are not aware of the actual lifestyles and practices of your teachers, you must exercise caution in what they are promoting. However, the complement to that is, if you are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures (and I mean the Scriptures, not just what a certain denomination teaches about the Scriptures), then you will have balance in being able to accurately evaluate anyone’s representation of the Word of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.

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