My anger is directed not at gullible Christians, but at the enemy who seeks to undermine their faith. I am amazed when unsuspecting believers fall for the weird and whacky in spite of the warning of Hebrews 13:9, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”
The phrase “carried about” translates an interesting Greek word. It’s the word paraphero. You should recognize the first part of that word. Para appears in such Bible words as “parable.” Para means close beside. Ballo means to cast or throw. Put them together and you get the word “parable” — an earthly story thrown alongside a heavenly principle for better understanding.
Back to Hebrews 13:9 and the compound word paraphero. Again, para means close beside. Phero means to carry away. Picture a person in a ship being carried away by the wind. Put para and phero together and you have a frightening definition. When the Hebrew writer said, “Do not be carried away,” he was warning of the danger of someone or something getting close to you and causing you to be removed, turned aside, misled, or seduced into error.
If it’s any consolation, this phenomenon is nothing new. The writers of the New Testament were constantly concerned about the same problem. The Book of Hebrews is one big warning to first century Jewish believers. Mainly, it was the warning against turning away from faith in Jesus Christ to an inferior, failed religious system. This final warning in Hebrews 13:9 alerted believers to the danger of being carried away from the gospel of grace into something else.
The word “strange” in Hebrews 13:9 translates the Greek word xenos which means new, novel, and can refer to strangers and foreigners. Be on guard when some new doctrine shows up like a stranger at your door. It’s no accident that before issuing this warning the writer declared the unchanging nature of Jesus Christ,“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Since Jesus never changes, the written revelation we have from Him in the Bible never changes either. Consequently, any new or novel teaching that comes along isn’t just unnecessary; it’s false!
Furthermore, the written Word of God must be correctly interpreted and applied. This was Paul’s command to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15). Oftentimes, error comes by way of incorrect interpretation and application of Scripture. So we must make sure that whatever is being taught is not only in the Bible, but that it aligns perfectly with the weight of Scripture.
In contrast to being carried away by strange doctrines, the Hebrew writer went on to say in verse 9, “For it is good that the heart be established by grace…” Don’t let yourself be removed from sound biblical doctrine. Instead, be established, settled, and grounded in the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ.
One last observation. It’s no accident that in Hebrews 13 the writer mentions church leaders on three separate occasions (verses 7,17 and 24). Pastors are given for a reason. A primary function of a pastor is to protect and feed the flock put under their care. So look for leaders who preach the Word and point you to Jesus.
As a pastor I add my voice to that of the Hebrew writer, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” May God give you the ability to discern and avoid the bizarre that lacks biblical grounding. And when you hear the truth, may the Spirit of Truth bear witness with your spirit saying, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
Pastor Todd Weston