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What are the teachings of demons, or doctrines of demons, mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:1?

In 1 Timothy 4:1–2, Paul warns: "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, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared." Other translations refer to "doctrines of demons" (NASB). Reading these verses on their own could easily lead us to question what Paul is referring to when he says "teachings of demons." A doctrine is a set of held beliefs that are taught to others. So, a doctrine of demons is a set of beliefs or a teaching which demons try to propagate throughout the church for the purpose of deceiving the believers.

Since demons are not visible (and if they were, we would hardly invite them to speak in church), they must take a deceptive route to get their false message heard. They are just like their leader Satan, the "father of lies" (John 8:44). How do they promote their message? Through false teachers—"through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared" (1 Timothy 4:2). Jesus warned us to "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

If you touch a hot stove and burn your hand, it is seared. Many times, a hard bump forms on the skin and there is a lack of sensitivity in the nerves at that point. Having a seared conscious means that it has been scorched or burned, indicating a lack of sensitivity or care. False teachers have a seared conscience—instead of remaining sensitive to the Spirit, they live lives that are hypocritical. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, their spiritual gauge is "off." They lack the discernment they need to keep in step with Christ and instead are susceptible to the doctrines of demons—both hearing them and teaching them to others. They do not know how to differentiate between the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of evil spirits. They may seem to be holy, but are actually living in sin and leading others to do the same.

The passage in 1 Timothy goes on to list a couple false doctrines—forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from certain foods (1 Timothy 4:3–5). If you hear a minister preaching something that seems not quite in line with the Bible, look at the fruit of his life and ministry. Jesus said that we will recognize false teachers by their fruit: "You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:16–18). There is no simple way to know the personal details of a minister on TV, for instance, but what is the fruit you see in your own life as a result of their teaching?

When the serpent approached Eve in the garden of Eden, he first questioned what God said ("Did God really say?"), which made Eve question what God said, and he then spun it his own way. Eve was deceived by the serpent, bringing sin into the world. Paul talks of deceitful spirits in connection with doctrines of demons. Satan and his demons still try to deceive people today.

How can we identify if a teaching is false? It will not line up with God's Word. Satan is a master manipulator, which is why doctrines of demons are so rampant—they have been his proven strategy from the beginning. Through His Word, God has given us everything we need to resist the temptations of the enemy and discern true doctrine from false doctrine (Ephesians 6:10–18). We should all pay attention to any red flags in teachings we listen to and take them to the Lord. Search the Word and ask God for wisdom and discernment (see James 1:5; 1 John 4:1–3). When we know what the Bible says, we will also be able to recognize the teachings that are contrary to it.


Related Truth:

What is the key to recognizing false teachers?

What are some signs of false teachers?

Who is Satan?

What are demons according to the Bible?

Why should we study the Bible?


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