Grace Family Bible Church
Paul Gives a Warning
By: Scott Morton
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
After speaking about how they were to function properly in the grace of God, the Apostle Paul shifts into a warning about the things of man and this world. He speaks of the things that are of this world, which are contrary to God. These things listed will pull someone away from their role as being an ambassador for Christ and will impact the testimony of the believer. This is why Paul warns about these issues.
These things will cause someone to be spoiled, as Paul states. This is looking at the aspects of what we would call the spoils of war. Individuals are taken in by what Paul is speaking of and the end result is they cannot be part of what God is doing. These things prevent someone from relying on what the Word of God says, which is the only thing which can work in someone to allow them to be pleasing unto God. The issues Paul warns about separate someone from functioning properly.
The first of these is the issue of philosophy. This is something many people who go to college end up taking a class in. We will start with a definition of this word, coming from Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
PHILOS'OPHY, n. [L. philosophia; Gr. love, to love, and wisdom.]
1. Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter. When applied to any particular department of knowledge, it denotes the collection of general laws or principles under which all the subordinate phenomena or facts relating to that subject, are comprehended. Thus, that branch of philosophy which treats of God, &c. is called theology; that which treats of nature, is called physics or natural philosophy; that which treats of man is called logic and ethics, or moral philosophy; that which treats of the mind is called intellectual or mental philosophy, or metaphysics.
The objects of philosophy are to ascertain facts or truth, and the causes of things or their phenomena; to enlarge our views of God and his works, and to render our knowledge of both practically useful and subservient to human happiness.
True religion and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.
2. Hypothesis or system on which natural effects are explained.
We shall in vain interpret their words by the notions of our philosophy and the doctrines in our schools.
3. Reasoning; argumentation.
4. Course of sciences read in the schools.
Here is where problems start to come in. The issue of philosophy is the thought process of man. This is usually where things are being held to an extremely high regard, as the individuals who are using this are considered to be the intelligent leaders and the people who are being sought out to get their advice. This is looked at as a good thing in the eyes of man.
Even in the definition we see religion is brought up. While many try to equate these things to where they are putting the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God on the same level, this is not the case. Religion is made by man. It is man's attempt to do the things which are laid out in the Bible. While many would try to state this is not the case, we can see how the things which religion comes up with contradict the things which are written in the Word of God. This is why Paul has to give these warnings, as the things in this verse will pull people away from what God would have us to do.
1 Corinthians 1:17
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
In the epistles written to the saints at Corinth we see there is a lot of discussion about the wisdom of man. It appears they were being pulled away from the things which the Apostle Paul had spoken to them demonstrating why he had to mention these things. Here Paul speaks about how wisdom takes away from the impact of the cross. Wisdom tries to add things to the simplicity of the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) which does make this message of none effect. Anything which is added means that it is no longer a message which is providing salvation.
1 Corinthians 2:6
Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
Paul speaks about how the wisdom of the world and of the princes of this world is nothing. The princes of this world are Satan and the fallen angelic realm. The battle against God is focused on issues of wisdom, which they have attempted to create a competing system of wisdom to explain things. It is contrary to what was given to Paul and he draws this contrast.
The issue of being perfect has nothing to do with our performance. It is all based on the identity we have in Christ. Because the Lord Jesus Christ is in us we can be seen as being perfect, which simply means we are complete. He fills the things which were missing inside of us.
1 Corinthians 1:20
Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
The things of this world cannot stand up to what God has done. This is why the things of man are foolish in His eyes. Our wisdom is foolishness compared to anything which comes from God. Most individuals are not able to see this issue. They think everything man is coming up with beats what God has done. This shows the continued foolishness they have related to this.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.  But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
James is giving a similar warning to Israel as they enter and function in the 70th week of Daniel. There will be a lot of things which had existed prior to this and that will come up during the time that will attempt to pull people away from the things of God. This could impact their salvation, as Israel can lose their position (Hebrews 6:4-6) and have to be on guard with this during the 70th week. This is why there are numerous references to Israel having to endure to the end.
Thankfully we do not have to worry about this. We have the guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). The impact on a believer following the wisdom of this world is on our sanctification, meaning the position we will have in the heavenly places for all eternity. This is what Paul is making a reference to in Philippians 3 when he speaks of destruction coming for those who mind earthly things. It is not a loss of salvation but a destruction of the rewards an individual would have had at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which occurs immediately after the catching out of the saints.
We can see how Israel was set up for this as well even in time past. Solomon explained why he wrote the book of Proverbs:
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;  To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;  To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;  To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.  A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:  To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
This introduction lays out the purpose of this book. As you read through these six verses there is a progression which they would go through as they are taking this information in. this growth would mean they are not giving into the things of this world, as they are all designed to pull people away from God. This can be seen as you progress through the book, as Solomon builds upon this information to prepare Israel.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
As we look at what the Apostle Paul says for us we see how he speaks about the relationship God has with the members of the Body of Christ. He has abounded toward us in all wisdom. This is speaking of the quantity of wisdom he has, as he has all of the wisdom and nothing man has could measure up to it. While the unsaved individual would struggle with this thought, this is something we fully realize after we have been saved. We know that the wisdom of man never measures up. This is why we can see the truth of what Paul wrote to the assembly in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 3:19-20
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.  And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
Those who rely on the wisdom of man are trapped in their own thinking. God knows that everything they are thinking is vain (empty) and there is nothing good which comes from it. He wants man to accept what is being offered through the gospel. However, this cannot be achieved by utilizing the wisdom of man to find.
The next thing Paul warns about being spoiled by is vain deceit. Just as we defined what philosophy was, we need to define deceit as well, taking the definition from Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
1. Literally, a catching or ensnaring. Hence, the misleading of a person; the leading of another person to believe what is false, or not to believe what is true, and thus to ensnare him; fraud; fallacy; cheat; any declaration, artifice or practice, which misleads another, or causes him to believe what is false.
My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. Job 27.
2. Stratagem; artifice; device intended to mislead.
They imagine deceits all the day long. Psalms 38.
3. In scripture, that which is obtained by guile, fraud or oppression.
Their houses are full of deceit. Jeremiah 5. Zephaniah. I.
4. In law, any trick, device, craft, collusion, shift, covin, or underhand practice, used to defraud another.
Looking at these definitions we can see how the issue of deceit is used and what Paul is trying to have the believer avoid. These are things which are designed to trap an individual in something which is contrary to them. The result is it pulls people farther away from the things of God's Word and causes the believer to not be as effective as they should be if they were functioning properly.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Paul is warning the individuals in Ephesus to not be deceived by these empty words which some would come in with. He is stating that there is a time coming when God is going to pour out wrath. This wrath is something a believer is promised they would never face (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We know the children of disobedience are those who are not saved, so these will be the ones which will face this wrath.
This type of deception is all through the Bible, as individuals were always trying to take people from the things of what God was doing. This is a complete description of the world system which is opposed to God. It is the role of the believer to be equipped to deal with these things in a proper manner so we are not pulled into this trap.
Too often even believers are trapped in this manner. One of the biggest ones of where this happens is in the things of the world, particularly politics. Individuals let these things have a big influence on them to the point of where this is what comes out of their mouth all the time. The big problem with this is when someone with an opposing view sees this is what the focus is and sees the vitriol which often accompanies the things which are being said. When the discussion shifts to speaking about the Word of God and the gospel which would save them, those with differing opinions are not going to accept what is being said based solely on the worldly things which were being talked about.
If we are going to successfully stay away from these things we need to follow the pattern which the Apostle Paul lays out:
1 Timothy 4:13
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
These are the things where our focus should be. If we are focusing on these things we will have the doctrine built up in us and will not be pulled away by all of the things which the Apostle Paul is listing in this passage.
The next one is the traditions of men. This is something which so many people get trapped in. this is where a person is doing things based upon the fact that it has always been done that way, even though they have no idea why this is the case. The Word of God has many things to say about the traditions of men and the problems they cause:
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.  And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.  Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?  He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.  And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.  For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:  But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.  And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;  Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
This passage from the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ shows how He viewed the issue of tradition. He saw how the traditions of men pulled individuals away from the things of the Word of God. The end result of this way of doing things was that it would make the Word of God of none effect in their lives. This was the condition the Apostle Paul found himself in (Galatians 1:13-14) as he followed the traditions which were set up by the religious leadership.
Any individual who did not grow up in a local assembly which understood the distinctiveness of Paul's ministry and rightly divided the Word of truth would have been in this same situation. The religions developed by man all have the traditions which they have developed which they place either on an equal footing with the Word or sometimes even place above the Word of God. Neither of these things is where someone should be, as this is completely against what God would have us do.
Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
These things turn people away from the truth which is found in the Word of God. This is really the goal of traditions and the thought process of man. This can even be the case when someone is trying to utilize the Word of God to support their thought process. This happens because an individual will take the words of their original context, change the meaning of words to fit their own thought process, or will fail to place the passage in the dispensational context.
The idea of fables throws off some people. The issue Paul is bringing up is that it is a made up story which is intended to either amuse individuals or instruct them through the story. When someone is going to be built up, it needs to be through the Word of God. The Word is the only thing which can provide the true edification needed in the life of a believer in order to be pleasing unto God.
When we look at the idea of traditions which have taken over local assemblies, we can see many different examples. An example we are going to look at actually comes from the Word of God and the failure to rightly divide the Word.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This passage is used by many to justify their teaching of water baptism being for today. They are ignoring the audience of the passage (Israel and those following their program who were in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost) and also what the passage was teaching them. This is identifying what needs to be done in order to identify them as the kingdom of priests, which is what had been promised to Israel. As part of it, there are two different baptisms going on, one with water and one with the spirit.
Water baptism is a huge tradition and can be a divisive issue. This is something which is addressed after a person has put their trust in the gospel message, as it is only after they are saved that they will be able to understand exactly what the Word of God is saying on the topic.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Paul makes it clear in this passage that there is only one baptism which is for today. The Bible talks about twelve different baptisms which occurred at various times. Since twelve is more than one, we know we need to be careful on determining which one is truly for today and not let the traditions of men be the influencing factor in this. Paul tells us exactly what is for today.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
This is the only baptism which applies today. It is the Spirit placing us into the Body of Christ. This reality is something we don't see or know has happened, other than the fact that Scripture tells us it has occurred. There is no formal ceremony and nothing which tradition could ever say needs to happen differently.
Another one of these examples is the issue of the Sabbath. This is something which Israel needed to keep under the law. This would go from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday using the actual accounting of how days were spoken of in Israel's program. The tradition which individuals have come up with is the Lord Jesus Christ replaced the Sabbath with the Lord's Day, which is Sunday. Therefore, we need to keep this day as a holy day.
The Bible does not record this happening. This is something which man came up with, as man wants to do things in order to be pleasing unto God. Paul makes it clear of what is going on with these things today:
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Paul states he is afraid of them. The sense of this is that he is alarmed by what is going on. These individuals he is speaking of were not to be doing the things of observing any of these things which are being mentioned. They have turned away from the simplicity which was given to them through Paul and have gone under the things of the law system in order to try to demonstrate righteousness. This is not something which should be done.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
As the Apostle Paul is writing to these saints, he specifically writes these things of what they were doing (we will get to these later in more detail). While it may have been something of where they were being judged by others on whether they were doing these things or not, Paul tells them this should not be. All of these things were nothing but a shadow. They cannot bring righteousness to someone today.
The majority of what Christianity is doing today is things which fall into traditionalism. The Bible almost seems to be an afterthought as individuals get farther and farther away from the truth of it. The warning about traditions needs to be heeded, as they keep our eyes closed from what the Bible is telling us.
The next item on this list is the rudiments of the world. These are the things which people trap themselves in:
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;  But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Prior to salvation, the only thing which could have had an influence on someone was the things of this world. The entire world system is under the control of Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). He has control over everything we see in the world, which is opposed to God.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
This is the big question to be answered. Now that we are saved and know God why would we turn to the things of the world? The answer is we still walk around in a fleshly body and are still here on the earth. We are going to be seeing everything going on in this system and the goal is to not have it influence who we are and what we are doing.
This is a major problem for many individuals. They allow the things of this world to not only have an influence, but to have the dominance in their life. Some examples of these things are sports, politics, entertainment, and the educational system. While it is ok for someone to be participating in these things, the problem comes when this is what is the dominant thing in someone's life.
The issue can be seen in many forms and the reality is that when someone is focusing on the things of this world to a level where it is the primary focus it impacts the life of the believer that God intends. It takes away from the time of spiritual growth of studying God's Word. God wants us to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). If all of my time is being spent in the things of the world then I am not able to grow in the manner in which God intends.
Another area it impacts is the ability to share the gospel with others. Looking at the social media accounts of individuals who are saved shows where their focus is. Many times the feed is filled with political things focused on their beliefs. These can often become detrimental as they will be saying negative things about those who hold a different political view. When someone with that other view sees these things and then sees a gospel presentation from them, it impacts their receptiveness of the gospel. Many times they do not want to hear something from the person who has been saying these things in this manner.
The focus of our life is to be on the things of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why we can see the Apostle Paul state:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
The only thing we are able to glory in is what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. This is completely against what man thinks. The thought is we are to glory in everything we have done, which is a problem. Our righteousness can only be seen as filthy rags in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). There is nothing we can do which would be seen as glorious to God. Everything has to revolve around what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. This is why we see what Paul says about himself in this area of his life:
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:  Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;  Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Paul had every advantage of the flesh prior to his salvation. He could legitimately state all of these things. He is also able to see that none of this matters when our conversation is to be related to the heavenly places (Philippians 3:20). Since this is where our blessings are (Ephesians 1:3) and where our hope is (Colossians 3:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) then we are to be focused there. In order to be focused on these things we need to be paying less attention to the things of this world and focus on what is truly important.