That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men…
The ministry has been appointed to bring the Church forward to maturity, and therefore it is concerned to carry it safely through the intermediate stages. We are consequently warned not to continue children, but to advance steadfastly towards manhood. There are two faults hinted at by the apostle.
I. CHILDREN ARE APT TO BE UNSTABLE. "Tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine." They have not become so firmly rooted in the truth as to be proof against unsettling influences either within or without them. Consequently, they are like "a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed."
1. The warning implies that truth is a matter of supreme moment. Holiness of character is impossible without it. Believers ought to be well founded in the truth; not mere babes, but such as "are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).
2. They are warned against the tendency to be blown about by the winds of doctrine that blow from-every quarter. The counsel is much needed in this age of startling suggestion, radical denial, and deep unsettlement. There are men who go the rounds of all the sects, swinging from side to side with a movement which indicates that they are true to nothing but the love of change. It is hard for unstable natures to hold the poise of their judgment in the midst of such terrible cross-fires of theological and philosophical speculation.
II. CHILDREN ARE APT TO BE DECEIVED. Their want of knowledge leaves them open to imposition and deception. The apparatus of theological seduction is always at hand. The language of the apostle implies:
1. That there were errorists either at Ephesus or elsewhere, identified with the Christian communion, marked by "the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive." It is a mere dream to suppose that the primitive Church was perfectly pure either in doctrine or practice. The apostle's farewell address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus anticipated the rise of serious error (Acts 20:29).
2. That such "false teachers" were marked by selfishness, deceit, and malignity. This is the character which the apostle usually ascribes to such men (Romans 16:17, 18; Colossians 2:18; Galatians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 2:17). Error is, therefore, not harmless, though it may appear to be the mere sword-play of a speculative temperament. False teachers are not innocent. Yet our judgment in all cases of this sort must be exercised with charity and meekness, because men may be better than their creed, and may be influenced by the sounder parts of it.
3. That Satan often succeeds in seducing the unwary by the dexterous tricks of such teachers, who cunningly mingle the truth with such error as robs it of its healing virtues. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;