Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.
– 1 Timothy 4:1, ESV
I am intrigued by the adverbial modifier ῥητῶς in this verse – “expressly.” It would have seemed sufficient to say, “The Sprit says …” but Paul intensified this warning by saying, “The Spirit expressly says …” almost as if to say, “Make no mistake about this one.”
This is a prophetic context wherein the Spirit of prophecy is communicating something very specific. It’s not clear how the “expressly” conveyed message came, whether through a Spirit revelation to the mind of Paul, or a prophetic word given to him verbally through someone else.
Prophecies came through the prophets in a variety of ways. Sometimes they were obscure, almost riddles to be unraveled. Other times they were straightforward and blunt. In this case, the prophecy is exceedingly clear and precise.
The Spirit is warning of an outbreak of deceitful, seductive demonism. This is something that transcends mere pagan idol worship. This is something within the body of Christ so effectively deceptive and alluring that it will entice men and women away from the faith.
But it is truly worse than that sounds. Note the phrase “devoting themselves.” This is not a momentary, “Oops! I slipped up there, didn’t I?” This is a purposeful, focused devotion to demonic activity by one so deceived that they willingly left the faith to engage it.
Consider the current obsession with faith deconstruction, mysticism, Eastern occultism, drug-induced fantasies, baphomet worship, giddiness over “Satan clubs” in public schools. All of that, and more, is happening even as I type this sentence, and it aligns with this warning from the Spirit of God.
The spiritual subterfuge underway is something we ignore at a terrible cost – great peril. Believing we are in pursuit of righteousness, we dive headlong into the demonic snare. Remember the warning from Paul that false teachers would arise from within the church!1
For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
– 2 Corinthians 11:14b-15a, ESV
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
– 2 Corinthians 11:3, ESV
Though the manifestations are tangible, the seducing spirits that underlie them are not.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
– Ephesians 6:12, ESV
This is why John said, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”2
It seems ridiculous to even say it, but the apostle Paul said it anyway:
I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
– 1 Corinthians 10:20b-21, ESV
That such a statement must be made to Christ-followers seems absurd, but it had to be said then and it needs to be said now. Demonology is nothing to mess with. It is not to be taken lightly.
For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?
– 2 Corinthians 6:14b-15a, ESV
Therefore, “Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
– 2 Corinthians 6:17, NIV-1978
What may seem innocent and playful on the surface has the potential to fuel dangerous demonic influences in the life of an unsuspecting Christ-follower. Anything that even hints at the occult or demonic influences calls to mind the exhortation of the apostle Peter, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”3
1. Acts 20:30
2. 1 John 4:1, ESV
3. 1 Peter 5:8, NIV-1978