Every Wind of Doctrine

“Then I, the prisoner in [the] Lord, exhort you to walk worthily of the calling in which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, the [One] above all and through all and in you all. But to each one of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Because of this, He says, Having gone up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. But that He went up, what is it except that He also first came down into the lower parts of the earth? He that came down is the same who also went up above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And indeed He gave some [to be] apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; with a view to the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all may come to the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to [the] measure of [the] stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, being blown and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the sleight of men, in craftiness to the deceit of error, but speaking the truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, the Christ, from whom all the body, having been fitted and compacted together through every assisting bond, according to [the] effectual working of one measure [in] each part, produces the growth of the body to the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:1-16; underlining mine)

Here Paul addresses some purposes of ministry.  One purpose (among others) is that believers no longer be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.  When exactly were believers being tossed to and fro in Paul’s context? When regenerate or when unregenerate? Does the phrase “no longer” imply that some true (yet new) believers were among those being carried or tossed about with every wind of doctrine?  Or, does the “no longer” refer to the believer’s former time in their ignorance and unregeneracy (cf. 1 Peter 1:14)?  Is Paul — perhaps, and in effect — saying something like the following?

Let us no longer be like doctrinal dandelion seeds, being blown about by every novel gust of wind. Let us no longer be inconstant, ungrounded, and Christless chaff when we were unregenerate infants. But (now that God has mercifully regenerated us) let us rather be grounded, rooted, and settled trees planted by streams of water (cf. Colossians 2:6-7; Psalm 1:1-4).

Paul speaks similar words in Ephesians 4:17-18, when he says that believers are to

“no longer walk even as also the rest [of the] nations walk, in [the] vanity of their mind, having been darkened in the intellect, being alienated [from] the life of God through the ignorance which is in them because of the hardness of their heart.”

So, “no longer” walk as the unbelieving nations (v. 17) and “no longer” be infants (v. 14). Presumably the “nations” are those not professing faith in the true God — those who make no pretense of adhering to Jesus Christ.

So, who are these “infants” being blown all over the theological map? Are they true, yet very immature, Christians? Or, rather, are these “infants” simply unregenerate professing Christians who are inordinately impressionable, naive, credulous, gullible, and inconstant?  Are their minds, as one fellow put it,

“like inns, and their [doctrinal] opinions like travellers, which oft lodge not above one night in them”?

Are they possessed of no certain conviction about the sole gospel-ground of salvation (or any other doctrine that is essential to the gospel)? Are these inconstant infants, as another fellow put it, as

“[feathers] or [froths] upon the waves, whirred about with every wind of doctrine; unstable souls, as St Peter calls them; simple, that believe everything, as Solomon hath it; giddy hearers, that have no mould but what the next teacher casteth them into, being blown like glasses into this or that shape at the pleasure of his breath”?

While Paul does employ the word “infant” in other contexts (e.g., immature true Christians who said, “I am of Paul…I of Apollos”), I think the “infants” of Ephesians 4:14 refers to unstable or unsettled unbelievers who profess belief in the true gospel for any number of vain reasons, before flying off to (yet) another doctrinal flower.

Here are some additional unbelievers who either directly or indirectly address Ephesians 4:14 (as the Egyptian spoils assisted the Israelites, so perhaps the words of these men will assist my somewhat enervated efforts here):

“The truth they profess hath no anchor-hold in their understanding, and so they are at the mercy of the wind, soon set adrift, and carried down the stream of those opinions which are the favourites of the present time, and are most cried up — even as the dead fish with the current of the tide” (William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour).

The true believers’ hope — their Almighty Anchor — is sure and certain (see Hebrews 6:17-20). From the newly regenerated babe to the mature adult — they ALL have the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone as the Anchor of their souls. They are never set adrift or severed from their submission to Jesus Christ’s penal and prescriptive  righteousness as the SOLE ground of acceptance before God (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:1-5; Galatians 3:9-14; cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5 and Jude 24).  Neither are they like unto the swift dromedary who insatiably snuffs up the latest modified or repackaged theological zeitgeist (cf. Jeremiah 2:23-24).

“Now, such as are not settled in true religion, will, at one time or other, prove wandering stars; they will lose their former steadfastness, and wander from one opinion to another. Such as are unsettled are of the tribe of Reuben, ‘unstable as water,’ like a ship without ballast, overturned with every wind of doctrine. Beza writes of one Belfectius, who his religion changed as often as the moon. The Arians had every year a new faith. These are not pillars in the temple of God — but reeds shaken every way…To be unsettled in true religion, argues lack of judgment” (Thomas Watson; underlining mine).

Children are fickle sometimes of one mind sometimes of another, nothing pleases them long. Just so, unsettled Christians are childish; the truths they embrace at one time, they reject at another” (Thomas Watson; underlining mine).

2 Corinthians 4:6 shows what knowledge is revealed to every single regenerate believing person without exception, as an immediate and inevitable fruit of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating/resurrecting work (including the “mentally deficient” and those still in their mother’s womb):

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

No true believer can wander or stray from the True Shepherd to follow a false one (cf. Matthew 24:24; 2 John 9-11). Nor can they change religions “as often as the moon” since they have been invincibly-illumined by the Sun of Righteousness.

“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5; underlining mine).

“All things were yielded up to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and the [one] to whom the Son purposes to reveal [Him]” (Matthew 11:27).

“And when the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, that One will witness concerning Me” (John 15:26).

“But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth, for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will announce the coming things to you. That One will glorify Me, for He will receive from Mine and will announce to you” (John 16:13-14).

True believers remain stedfast; they do not follow strangers.  They are not fickle, unsettled, or unsure about what doctrines constitute the core of the gospel of Christ.

The Bereans of Acts 17:11 did not pin their faith to the apostle Paul’s sleeve, but searched the Scriptures to see whether these things were so. Likewise, those true Christians who are deliberately and resolutely grounded on the Rock of Jesus Christ, and who are not tossed about by every wind of doctrine, do not pin their faith upon another’s (or each others’) sleeve. For their faith is not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of Christ’s cross (1 Corinthians 1:17-24, 2:1-5).

However immature, naive, gullible, or credulous a regenerate babe in Christ may be, it is IMPOSSIBLE for them to be carried about by those doctrinal winds that are indicative of lostness.

James Fergusson writes (not a promotion of Fergusson as a true Christian, but his words may serve or assist me in spring-boarding off this Scot’s back):

“First, they are as little children, to wit, for ignorance of what is right, inconstancy in their [choice], and simplicity, or [easiness] to be deceived, and to credit all.”

The apostle Paul wondered whether some in Galatia had so quickly turned to another gospel (Galatians 1:6). In Galatians 3:1 Paul asks,

“O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you not to obey the truth?”

And then he further states:

“Then stand firm in the freedom with which Christ made us free and do not be held again with a yoke of slavery. Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man being circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law” (Galatians 5:1-3).

Paul was trying to discern or discover the precise reason or motivation that was driving this foolish Galatian desire to observe such things as “days and months and seasons and years” and circumcision (Galatians 4:10, 5:1-3).

Paul’s message was that they should not be observing these things. BUT the crucial question is WHY were they observing these things at all? WHY were they desirous to be “held again with a yoke of slavery”? Did this immature desire to observe seasons and circumcision come from a sincere love for Him that saved them?  Or, did their motivation come from of a deadly ignorance that sought to establish a righteousness of their own (Romans 10:1-4; cf. Galatians 5:3)?

If they are observing ceremonial “days and months and seasons and years” out of love for Jesus Christ, then this appears to be a deviation that has overtaken them in their ignorance (Galatians 6:1).  BUT if this desire is motivated and driven by ignorance of the righteousness of Christ as the only ground of acceptance before God (Romans 10:1-4), then, as Paul said elsewhere, they are righteously judged as presently unsaved (Galatians 1:8-9, 5:2-4).

I don’t believe that Ephesians 4:14’s “carried about by every wind of doctrine” is talking about believers as they are now; but about how they were when unregenerate. If, for the sake of argument, this passage does include true believers, then they certainly cannot be so greatly “carried away” or “blown about” as to follow a false christ or to ignorantly observe ceremonies as a means of establishing their own righteousness  (cf. John 10:4-5; Romans 10:1-4).

Another quote related to Ephesians 4:14’s “every wind of doctrine” (I forget who from):

“…they have no firm principles, and therefore waver hither and thither, as vessels without ballast are tossed with every wave: 2 Peter iii. 16, 17, ‘ Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness’… They do not stand by the knowledge of others, or the faith of others, and consent of others.” [underlining mine–CD]

The true Christian’s faith is their own, having been wrought by the Holy Spirit of God (1 John 2:20, 5:19-20). While they have been taught, edified, and educated by certain believers, they do not “need that anyone teach [them]” as if they were standing by the knowledge, faith, or consent of other believers  (1 John 2:20-21, 26-27). They have a sanctified apathy about what the multitudinous droves of God-haters think about how little the flock is. They know and trust in the Triune One who has taught them the Truth (1 John 5:9-13). They also know that Truth is not ascertained by counting noses or respecting faces. Amen.

“But we speak [the] wisdom of God in a mystery, having been hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age has known. For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; according as it has been written, Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it risen up into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love Him. But God revealed [them] to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of a man within him? So also no one has known the things of God except the Spirit of God. But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. Which things we also speak, not in words taught in human wisdom, but in [Words] taught of the Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual [things.] But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them,] because they are spiritually discerned. But the spiritual one discerns all things, but he is discerned by no one. For who has known [the] mind of [the] Lord? Who will teach Him? But we have [the] mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:7-16).