Bible Study

Dangerous Folly

Michael Beck Michael Beck

Every generation has religious people in it who wish to craft the Word of God into something which will resonate with and “minister” to their generation. Their man-centered message is shaped to people’s “needs” and desires. God warns His people not to listen to their message.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:8,9)

The Word of God has always been under greater attack from within than from without; by those who claim to possess and proclaim it, rather than by those who completely deny its validity.

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the LORD;
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts.
Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD.
They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.
Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken? (Ezekiel 13:1-7)

God likened the words of the false prophets to faulty “untempered mortar” which in a day of great trying pressure would be “discovered” as inadequate and false.

Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:
Say unto them which daub it with untempered morter, that it shall fall: there shall be an overflowing shower; and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall rend it.
Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not be said unto you, Where is the daubing wherewith ye have daubed it?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury; and there shall be an overflowing shower in mine anger, and great hailstones in my fury to consume it.
So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered morter, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundation thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 13:10-14)

God promises that the proud, presumptuous words that men speak of their own minds will eventually be “cut off” and come to nothing, while His pure words will be preserved forever.

The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?…
The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. (Psalm 12:3,4,67)

Only by taking strict heed to God’s Word can our life and message be brought into conformity to it.

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? (Proverbs 22:17-21)

By taking strict heed to His Word, God filters away from us thinking that is not of Him.

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

If our soul has been “subverted” by any falsehood, we are restored to paths of righteousness by the Word of God.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

Joshua was told that his success as a servant of God would be relative to his careful adherence to the Word of God and his refusal to deviate from it.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. (Joshua 1:7,8)

Likewise, every king of Israel was to read God’s word daily and rule from no other basis than the Word of God.
God instituted that there should be no authority higher than His Word.

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)

The apostles warned that ungodly men would “creep” into the church and tamper with the faith “once delivered unto the saints.”

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3,4)

To be godly servants of God we must love and honor the purity of His Word.

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it. (Psalm 119:140)

Religious people are not necessarily worshipping people. Those who are godly (i.e., right worshippers) love the Lord with all their mind, and honor Him by sitting at His feet, and receiving nothing other than His Word as truth.

…But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isaiah 66:1,2)

The church’s foundation is the teaching of the apostles and prophets, without addition or subtraction.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19,20)

From the beginning to end, God has sternly warned us not to add to or subtract anything from His revelation to us.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18,19)

Despite His warnings, “many” have always been willing to “corrupt” the teaching of scripture by their additions and subtractions.

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17)

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the foremost religious leaders of their day.
Jesus warned His disciples to beware of both their errors.

Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12)

ADDITION is the error of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were the forerunners of Talmudic teaching. By adding to the Word of God through their own doctrines and traditions, the Pharisees “laid aside” its simple and clear message.

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. (Mark 7:7.8)

Although claiming great devotion to the law of God, the Pharisees cleverly manipulated its letter to justify their violation of its spirit.

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. (Mark 7:9-13)

Even after coming to faith in Christ, certain Pharisees wanted to add to the faith things which were unnecessary.

And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (Acts 21:20,21)

Zeal is often at the bottom of why men seek addition to the scripture.
They reach for something which will give them an extra edge.
The pride of the Pharisees caused them to add their own particular “touches” to scripture which would in turn cause men to form “schools” around their distinctive approach.
In doing this, they hoped to “exclude” believers from other teachers, and make their own disciples.

They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. (Galatians 4:17)

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. (Galatians 6:12,13)

Those who add to the Word of God are those who are vulnerable to corrupting the word of God with foreign ideas.
Paul warned zealous Gentile Christians not to add their teachings and traditions found in philosophy.
Mysticism in the church arose out of the willingness of the church fathers to mix the tenets of philosophy with scripture.

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. (Colossians 2:8)

SUBTRACTION is the error of the Sadducees.

The Sadducees formed the majority of the council of the Sanhedrin.
Because of their despising of God’s Word they took great issue with Jesus and His disciples.

Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation (Acts 5:17)

The Sadducees claimed adherence only to the Torah (i.e. first five books of Moses.) They subtracted the writings of the prophets from the canon of scripture. This explains why they became so indignant at Stephen’s rebuke.

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. (Acts 7:51-54)

The Sadducees also did not believe in the soul’s afterlife or the existence of angels or devils.

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:8)

And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? (Mark 12:24)

Subtraction happens when we begin to discard those parts of God’s Word that don’t suit our understanding, satisfy our sensibilities, or align with our experience. Those who subtract from scripture can be both “sensible” and sensual. They claim to be rational and practical and “mock” what their reasoning can’t grasp.

But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:17-19)

Those who subtract from the Word of God then “fill in the blanks” become vulnerable to devising their own way. There is an army today of Sadducee types who reject whole portions of the Word of God that they don’t agree with. They subsequently claim freedom from “organized religion” and see themselves as “spiritual” rather than religious. Yet, God does not give man the liberty to “choose” his own path to relationship with Him. He HAS “organized” the faith upon clearly defined lines laid down in the Word of God.

But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come…
Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. (Deut. 12:5,8)

The move in our day is a move away from “organized religion” into a chaotic “spirituality” where each man worships at an eclectic altar of his own making.

And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 28:24)


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.