These two snakes look very similar at first glance, but the pattern of the stripe on each one allows a hiker to differentiate between the two. Oh, how that pattern makes all the difference if one slithers across the path. As the saying goes, “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. Red touch black, venom lack.” Can you see it, the subtle difference? King snakes, “red touch black,” are harmless. However, coral snakes, “red touch yellow,” have potent venom. Better watch where you’re walking!
In 2 Timothy 3 Paul warns the church to be on guard against another deadly poison, the presence of false teaching:
“…In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving…”
Paul goes on until he ends the laundry list of destructive characteristics with perhaps the most stinging indictment:
“…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”
False teachers will hold to a “form” of godliness. A godliness that looks like the real thing though it has a subtle and deadly difference. Their godliness doesn’t result in fruit.
Paul continues with a warning to Timothy about a specific area where these seducers will try to harm the church,
“For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
The serpent that has been slithering through the world since the Garden now sends his agents into households looking for weak-minded, distracted women. Paul isn’t giving this warning to insult women, but he realizes there are real dangers to the family and the church if women just listen to the word and don’t do what is says (James 1:22). We will be easily deceived if we go to church every week and hear the truth, but it doesn’t change us. We can be captured if we are so comfortable in our sin that we don’t even see it as sin anymore. We will embrace a form of godliness as truth if we don’t know how to fully embrace God’s truth.
We live in a time with endless access to books, blogs, podcasts, and Bible studies aimed toward our edification and building a mature faith. However, we must remember that the standard for authority in godly teaching is not if we adore the way a woman interacts with her children, if we laugh at her witty blog banter, or are inspired by her memorable sayings. It’s not whether a pastor writes a lot of books or tells touching stories that speak to our lives. God’s Word is the standard we use to grow up into maturity as believers and the only way to conquer weak-minded, fruitless living (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So, read your Bible. Know it. Memorize it. Wrestle with it. Dwell in the unknown. Pray for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to what God’s word has to say and then–apply it to your life. Don’t forget that crucial final step. Apply it. A life influenced by helpful moral teaching without a heart changed by God is a life that leads to death.
If a coral snake bites you, the effects aren’t immediate. In fact, there is relatively little pain or swelling. You might think you’re fine. It can take up to 12 hours for the venom to affect your body but it will produce slurred speech, muscle paralysis, double vision and, without medical intervention, eventually death.1 If you recognize the snake’s deadly markings you don’t ignore the truth of it’s reality and simply hope everything will be ok! You get the medical attention you need to save your life, as quickly as possible.
The same is true of your walk with God. The call to mature Christian women is to know the truth of the Word, live in the Word, and live out the Word so that you can recognize those who imitate and twist the truth. Don’t ignore time in the Word and the work of living out your salvation with the hope that everything will be ok. Your life depends on it.
1 Society, National Geographic. “Eastern Coral Snakes, Eastern Coral Snake Pictures, Eastern Coral Snake Facts.” National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.