14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Here, Paul speaking by the wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 3:15) lays out here for us some of the causes of corruption that carry the believer into error and heresy, not to mention blasphemy. Believers are carried about as a shipwrecked sailor is on the waves of a storm as they struggle to stay afloat in the ocean by the sleight of men and their cunning craftiness which is how they lie in wait like a highway robber to deceive.
In history, men have claimed new revelations not based in simply a clearer reading of the text or an understanding of some modern concern based on what were once thought to be obscure passages, but in order to garner to themselves followers to lift themselves up.
Early on, in the time of the apostles, Bible verses were being deliberately corrupted. Paul warned us;
2 Corinthians 2:17 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.
Some so-called preachers and teachers of the word of God did their dirty work using the type of speech or sermon style that the Greek Sophist would use, to manipulate their hearers emotionally with a smooth oratory for the purpose of making a living off of their deceptions.
Romans 16: 17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
The sophist of pagan days in Greece would travel from town to town and be expected to be able to make his audiences cry or laugh on command, to give a sermon on virtually any subject and get a response from the crowd. These men made their living from talking a good talk. This was carried over into the Christian church as opportunists saw a way to make a living without having to actually get their hands dirty.
There were other deceivers who preached that Jesus Christ did not really have a body like our own. It only appeared to be so. These Gnostics preached, like the Judaizers who then and even now try to put the believer back under the Law of Moses, a religion of works and sexual abstinence as a means of salvation.
2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
There were and are the Nicolaitans, which means, “victory over the laity,” who elevated the pastor to some type of priest who, like a prophet of the Old Testament, had a special connection with God that the average believer could not have. In the second century, Ignatius, elevated the Bishop, the Pastor of the church, to be like Jesus Christ Himself. In the third century, Cyprian declared that Bishop of a church was accountable to no one but God. You can see where preachers like Jack Hyles got their doctrine on a preacher who was not accountable to any mortal and his notorious, “second blessing,” that boosted the pastor to greater importance to Christ.
Jesus said He hated that doctrine of the Nicolaitans in Revelations 2:6 & 15. John warned about a man named Diotrephes in 3 John 1:9 who loved being the center of attention and having power. This is a far cry from the humble pastor, God’s shepherd, who is meek toward God’s will, that we love and respect.
There were people, as mentioned often in Paul’s letters, who tried to put the Christian back under the Law of Moses. In modern churches this can be part of Replacement Theology where the church has become the new Israel and the Jews are irrelevant. This was commonplace in early America and provided much of the justification for slavery because God permitted it and regulated it under the Law given to the Hebrews. Christ hates that as well.
Jesus calls them the, “synagogue of Satan,” which, “say they are Jews and are not.” You can find the references in Revelation 2:9 and 3:9.
If you find yourself not sure what the Bible teaches or what to believe and are tossed about on every wind of doctrine there are some things you can do to counteract that miserable condition.
One, you can pray for guidance. Two, you can read your Bible every day and from cover to cover and study it regularly, not just picking out your favorite passages and ignoring the rest. Three, you can listen to your pastor’s sermons and question his meaning respectfully after the sermon if you are confused. Third, you can look for all comments and verses on a particular doctrine in the Bible rather than making a judgment based on one verse, for instance, on matters such as marriage and divorce. Three, you can look at the context something is written in as in was it written to Christians or Jews? Was it before the resurrection or after?
Another, among many ways, to keep from being tossed about by conflicting doctrines, is to understand that by letting the Bible define itself you can see that “all scripture,” was, “given by inspiration,” (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspiration is defined in the Bible as understanding (Job 32:8) and wisdom (2 Peter 3:15). This brings two important things to bear on understanding the Bible. One, it is not necessarily word for word dictation from the Holy Spirit to the original Bible writers as God uses their style, their mannerisms, and most of all the wisdom and understanding He has given them to write. He even allowed certain of His own originals changed as you can see by reading Jeremiah 36:32. Why, then, are the personal opinions, failings, and the complaining of the Bible writers like Moses, Luke, Paul, or Jeremiah as important as the factual histories God gave Moses and Luke or the doctrines God gave Paul for us and the warnings God gave Jeremiah for Jerusalem? They are important because God preserved them for us (Psalm 12:6,7; Psalm 119:89). They provide us with examples for our learning and edification.
Paul himself said, Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
When you are tempted to complain because bad people get away with their badness you can see that Jeremiah did the same. When you are uncertain about your ability to serve God you can read that Moses had the same self-doubts. When a Godly brother or sister in Christ or your Pastor, gives his or her own opinion and you are tempted to question it you can see what Paul said about his opinion in 1 Corinthians 7:40 and see why you should take heed.
Finally, although there are many other things to consider in understanding the Bible than I’ve mentioned here and not being confused by every wind of doctrine understand that God wanted you to have every word in this Book and His stated purpose was and in addition to what Paul said in Romans 15:4 about it being for our learning there is;
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.