Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Doctrine of Demons

"Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence" (Colossians 2:23).

Our sanctification is to flow out of our justification; it is measured by the Word of God for salvation and by no other standard. The law of God shows us what we need and that same law shows us how to live once we are saved. But from the first century, the church has been intruded by alien principles sent by the devil to confuse Christians and get them to live by rules not taught in the Holy Scriptures.

The Colossian church had been infected by such false notions, a curious blend of fascination with angels and unbiblical asceticism. Throughout all the ages of the church, ascetic and world-denying notions have warped the lives of believers. Early on, fasting came to be regarded as a high Christian virtue—not ordinary fasting, but rejection of meat or fasting almost to starvation. Perpetual virginity came to be regarded as a higher calling than marriage, though the Bible says nothing about this. Treating the body with contempt by refusing to bathe or by wearing harsh clothing became a sign of spirituality.

Where does the Bible recommend whipping yourself or wearing rocks in your shoes? To bring the matter closer to home, where does the Bible say that wearing makeup and jewelry is sinful? Where does the Bible condemn all drinking of alcohol? Where does the Bible teach us to measure sanctification by whether a woman wears slacks or by whether we go to the movies? The answer is nowhere. These rules do not come from the Bible but are part of the “doctrine of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1–5), which Paul here summarizes under the slogan, “Do not handle it! Do not taste it! Do not touch it!” (Colossians 2:21).

Why does the church continually fall into this trap? Because keeping rules like these is a whole lot easier than dealing with envy, bitterness, hatred, lust, and other real sins. Moreover, the human heart is very happy to come up with its own rules, but resists submitting to God’s revealed law. We can persuade ourselves that we are holier than others if we don’t smoke or drink. But God is concerned with real holiness, not the superficial pseudo-holiness of the doctrine of demons.

Some traditions that have hardened into “rules” in some Christian circles had their origins in legitimate concerns. Once these concerns are elevated to the place of the Bible, they become sinful. Make an inventory of those man-made rules with which you judge others.