“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them“ Hebrews 13:9
The text is an apostolic caution against false doctrine. It forms part of a warning which Paul addressed to Hebrew Christians. It is a caution just as much needed now as it was eighteen hundred years ago. Never, I think, was it so important for Christian ministers to cry aloud continually, “Do not be carried away.”
That old enemy of mankind, the devil, has no more subtle instrument for ruining souls than that of spreading false doctrine. “A murderer and a liar from the beginning. . . .your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Outside the Church he is ever persuading men to maintain outrageous customs and destructive superstitions. Human sacrifice to idols, gross revolting, cruel, disgusting worship of abominable false deities, persecution, slavery, cannibalism, child murder, devastating religious wars–all these are a part of Satan’s handiwork, and the fruit of his suggestions. Like a pirate, his object is to “sink, burn, and destroy.” Inside the Church he is ever laboring to sow heresies, to propagate errors, to foster departures from the faith. If he cannot prevent the waters flowing from the Fountain of Life, he tries hard to poison them. If he cannot destroy the remedy of the Gospel, he strives to adulterate and corrupt it. No wonder that he is called “Apollyon, the destroyer.”
The Divine Comforter of the Church, the Holy Spirit, has always employed one great agent to oppose Satan’s plans. That agent is the Word of God. The Word expounded and unfolded, the Word explained and opened up, the Word made clear to the head and applied to the heart. The Word is the chosen weapon by which the devil must be confronted and confounded. The Word was the sword which the Lord Jesus wielded in the temptation. To every assault of the Tempter, He replied, “It is written.”
The Word is the sword which His ministers must use in the present day, if they would successfully resist the devil. The Bible, faithfully and freely expounded, is the safeguard of Christ’s Church. I desire to remember this lesson, and to invite attention to the text which stands at the head of this paper. We live in an age when men profess to dislike dogmas and creeds, and are filled with a morbid dislike to controversial theology. He who dares to say of one doctrine that “it is true,” and of another that “it is false,” must expect to be called narrow-minded and uncharitable, and to lose the praise of men.
If we would not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings, we must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Diligently study the Scriptures.” Ignorance of the Bible is the root of all error. Knowledge of the Bible is the best antidote against modern heresies.
Excerpt from “Warnings to the Churches”
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)