“When I was going to the province of Macedonia, I encouraged you to stay in the city of Ephesus. That way you could order certain people to stop teaching false doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3 GW).
“Doctrine” is a word that often appears in religious discussions but rarely seems to be defined. In general, we can associate the word “doctrine” with any sort of teaching or instruction. When used in a spiritual sense, doctrine relates to our beliefs concerning God, humanity, Christ, the church, and other related topics. At the risk of oversimplifying an important subject, true doctrine represents a teaching that corresponds to what we read in the Biblical Scriptures. False doctrine corresponds with something else.
Unfortunately, the intrusion of false doctrine upon the first-century church at Ephesus was not unique. In fact, it may be said that the presence of false doctrine is more pervasive today than at any other point in history. Therefore, it is critically important to establish an effective method to identify and reject false teachings.
Perhaps the easiest method of separating true and false doctrine involves reading a portion of the Bible every day. If we prayerfully read God’s Word each day, we are sure to become familiar with Biblical doctrine over time. On the other hand, a person who rarely reads the Scriptures is someone who is likely to encounter difficulty in this area. While devotional readings and Bible studies (including this one) have their place, there is no substitute for dedicating a period of time each day to reading God’s Word.
This is important to modern-day audiences for another reason. You see, the false teachers in Ephesus had to depend on written communication or direct personal interaction to spread their beliefs. However, today’s purveyors of false doctrine have the advantage of 21st century technology to market and package their teachings in a highly effective manner.
For instance, a false and deceptive religious teacher now has the ability to spread his or her beliefs directly into countless homes with high definition quality. Podcasts, streaming media, and other forms of digital content offer unprecedented access to global audiences. Then there are terrestrial and satellite radio broadcasts that continue to provide an ample opportunity to disseminate false teachings.
These technological advantages were unavailable to the false teachers of first-century Ephesus. However, the New Testament book of Titus alerts us to one thing that hasn’t changed: false teachers still “…mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught” (Titus 1:11 NET).