Grace For The Journey
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they willl turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
Have you ever read Aesop’s Fables or perhaps the Greek myths about Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, or Jason and the Argonauts? When we refer to these as myths or fables, we mean that they are fictional, wild stories, and flights of fancy. Most readers do not, for a moment, consider these stories real or factual.
But in the context of the New Testament epistles, the letters written by the Apostles, by men like Paul and Peter, John and Jude, “fable” (or “myth”’) is used in a far more serious light. As we shall see . . .
“Fables”/ “myths” in the New Testament writings
Are synonymous with deceit, falsehood and lies.
In other words, biblically speaking,
A fable is anything that is
The antithesis of truth.”
Fables of this sort
Take people away from God’s truth
As found in His Word, the Bible,
And as revealed to us in
The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Turning people away from truth
Goes hand in hand with
The embracing of myths and fables;
And to depart from God’s truth
Is very serious indeed.
We see, then, that “fable” is a very negative New Testament word, speaking of error – which is why the Bible portrays fables as anti-Christian!
The importance of spotting fables
Cannot be underestimated.
For once false teaching
Infiltrates a church
And takes hold of its people,
Great damage results:
God’s name is in danger
Of being blasphemed
And His glory is no longer
Evident among the Christian “flock.”
If unchallenged, those who have imbibed fables end up leaving churches in confusion, even falling away from the faith and forsaking God altogether!
The Importance Of Truth
It has been well said that the best way of spotting a forgery is to become very familiar with the genuine article – the real thing. Banks train their tellers to identify forged currency by looking at and handling real, genuine paper currency. In the same way . . .
Before we consider fables
(Doctrines that masquerade as truth),
It is helpful to remind ourselves of
What the Scriptures teach about the truth.
In the beginning this blog I noted that fables are contrasted with truth. The Bible is clear that genuine Christians are those who “know the truth.” For instance, the Bible says in 1 John 2:21, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.”
The Christian is identified as someone who knows the truth as it is in Jesus. So, the Bible goes on to say in John 2:22, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ. He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.” Certainly, the greatest fable of all is one which culminates in a denial of Jesus as the Messiah, whom God sent as the promised Savior of sinners.
Believing the truth means remaining true to the things that God and Jesus teach in the Bible. The Bible says in 2 John 9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” In fact, this is so critical, that anything that could spoil our Christian testimony, or that could bring us confusion, should be avoided like the plague . . . Truth matters!
The danger of fables
The apostle Paul went to great pains to warn Timothy, a godly young pastor, of some of the dangers and challenges of Christian ministry. He warned of a time to come when people would “will turn their ears away from the truth” and “be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4), embracing heresy. His solemn commission to his young protégé is highly relevant for all twenty-first century Christians. It is recorded in 2 Timothy 4;1-4, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His Kingdom: Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
In an earlier letter, Paul had already advised Timothy to reject (have nothing to do with) “profane and old wives’ fables” (1 Timothy 4:7), advising him, instead, to exercise himself towards godly living. In his second letter, Paul built on that advice and gave Timothy the solemn responsibility of guarding the church against false teaching.
False teaching is a constant
Threat to God’s people today too.
Therefore it is vital that pastors, church leaders,
Indeed all of us as Christians,
Are on our guard –
Recognizing and being engaged
For this battle for the truth,
For people’s minds and hearts,
Never lets up or ends.
As already mentioned, the turning from truth goes hand in hand with the embracing of myths and fables; and to depart from God’s truth is very serious indeed. There are similar warnings elsewhere in the pastoral epistles. For instance, Paul instructed Titus to rebuke those in the church of Crete who were becoming unsound in faith, “… Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.” (Titus 1:13-14).
The apostle Peter (in his second epistle) was also careful to distinguish his preaching and teaching methods from the false teachers of his day. In 2 Peter 1:16, Peter is led to say, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter contrasted the fables concocted by the false teachers to the sure, prophetic Word of God, and the apostles’ eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ majesty. In the same letter, he pulled no punches, saying outright in 2 Peter 2:15-16, “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray” … “these are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for who is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.”
Their teaching may be alluring, but fables and myths inevitably lead people into error. This is why the church must be concerned to combat the insidious influence of evolution and other creation compromises in today’s world.
In our own day, there are many purveyors of devilishly clever fables in society at large and also within the church. In fact, Peter had something important and relevant to say about “creation fables” that would arise in the last days. He warned of false teachers – “scoffers” – who would follow “their own sinful desires,” denying the second coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:3-4) and mocking the biblical teaching on the future destruction of this world (2 Peter 3:7,10).
Specifically, he predicted that these mockers would deny that the world was created by God’s word and that the original world was destroyed in a watery deluge (2 Peter 3:5-6). It’s a view that is indistinguishable from the teachings of those who argue for evolution over millions of years (a modern-day creation fable); the evolutionists’ rejection of biblical creation and Noah’s Flood goes hand-in-hand with their insistence on secularist doctrine.
How would Peter have viewed such ideas? Taking his second letter as a whole (and remembering that he specifically addressed creation/flood deniers), it is safe to conclude that he would have regarded the philosophy of deep-time evolution as loud boasts of folly” or “great swelling words of vanity” (2 Peter 2:18) – that is to say, teaching that is ultimately void because it denies the historical nature of Genesis regarding Creation and the Flood. Alluring they may be, but fables and myths inevitably lead people into error.
As an aside, it is heartening that even some avowed atheists are beginning to openly expose the modern evolutionary theory for the fable that it is. One such person is Thomas Nagel (a professor of philosophy at New York University) who recently published a book with this subtitle: Why The Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. Needless to say, such dissent has drawn a lot of fire from doctrinaire evolutionists!
Fables, then . . .
Are a grave danger
To the people of God.
A person cannot embrace fables
And at the same time
Keep a firm hold on truth!
Embracing fables always goes hand-in-hand with a departure from God’s truth. To turn aside to consider fables is not merely a little unwise – it is to “wander off into myths.” Ultimately . . .
It is to court disaster,
Because it is impossible
To allow a fable
To have a place
In one’s mind
Rejecting biblical truth.
Fables result only in bad fruit. Good cannot come from toying with this or any new teaching contrary to God’s Word.
It is through regularly reading and studying the Bible that we discern between God’s truth and fables. Moreover, we will also be jealous guardians of the truth because we will see that the reputation and glory of God is at stake, as well as the eternal destiny of human beings.
With these things in mind, it is time to “call a spade a spade.” According to the scriptural definition, those who espouse various kinds of fables are false teachers. So, for instance, John has no qualms about describing those who actively deny the incarnation of Jesus (that He was fully God and fully man) as “deceivers;” worse than that, such a person is an actually an “antichrist” (2 John 7-8).
Indeed . . .
A careful consideration
Of all fables
(As biblically defined)
Leads to the unavoidable conclusion
That they have a spirit
Of antichrist about them.
Of course, many of the cults that have proliferated in recent centuries fall into this category – not only do they deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ but they also teach many fables which they claim are on a par with biblical truth.
Jude talks of those who have infiltrated churches unnoticed. They have “crept in unnoticed” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). That’s right! The unambiguous teaching here is that deceivers and Christ-deniers are not merely in society at large, but are inside today’s church! This is why the New Testament writers warn so strongly about false teachers: “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 12-13). Jude finishes his brief discourse by describing such people as those who are focused on what is “worldly” or “sensual,” causing divisions in the church because “they are devoid of the [Holy] Spirit” (Jude 19) – that is to say, they are not believers at all.
The Bible teaches clearly that genuine believers (those born of God) hear the truth and may discern it from error (1 John 4:5-6). Nevertheless, because of the infiltration of false teachers into churches (1 John 4:1) Christians are to be especially vigilant. Those who adhere to the Scriptures, praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will not go far wrong. Listen to what Jesus says on the matter: ‘If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31-32).
It is through regularly reading and studying the Bible that we discern between God’s truth and fables. Moreover, we will also be jealous guardians of the truth because we will see that the reputation and glory of God is at stake, as well as the eternal destiny of human beings. Jude says “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
We are living in momentous days. All sorts of seductive, deceitful teachings are threatening to corrupt the glorious truth of God and draw people away from Christ (see 1 Timothy 4:1). Here is excellent biblical advice:
“Test everything; hold fast what is good”
(1 Thessalonians 5:21).
This is a word for you because you have people in your circle that no pastor/preacher can reach. Have you not been entrusted with the gospel? In fact, your pastor/preacher is there to equip you to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
You need to hear the urgency of the Word in 2 Timothy 4:1-2, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be instant in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” When this season of grace is over men and women will have to give an account of themselves before God. Tell them now before it’s too late.
We need faithful, systematic biblical teaching and expository preaching, giving us the whole counsel of God. We don’t need psychological pep talks and feel good sermons. No, we need God’s Word – His way of thinking about this world! Granted, it can be challenging to sit under God’s Word because it convicts you in areas that you might not want to have touched or addressed. The Word of God plainly spoken and simply taught has a way of invading places in your inner being that you have been trying to keep God out of. That can be very painful, and yet, it is so very necessary that God should do this work in us, for the Word of God is given to know about God and ourselves and how to get right and live right before Him.
That is why the church must remain committed to expository preaching. When you’re preaching God’s Word, you are giving people answers to the real questions and issues in life.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”