Biblical Warnings and Admonitions (3): Beware
Mackey W. Harden
"Coaches Beware" was the caption of a recent article in the Family Weekly section of a local newspaper. An accompanying photograph displayed a basketball coach with both fists tightly clenched, and his mouth wide open in the middle of a yell. The essence of the article was to reveal the danger of stress placed on football and basketball coaches during a game. Dr. Phillip Allsen, a professor of physical education at Brigham Young University, said that "the heart rate of head coaches during the games averages almost 100 percent above the average resting heart rate." Dr. Allsen was issuing a warning for head coaches to beware of stress during a game. He goes on to warn, "If the stress on the heart is not dealt with, it could easily lead to a serious heart attack."
If you and I were to walk through our neighborhood, chances are very good that we would encounter at least one fenced yard with a sign that says, "Beware, Bad Dog!" This would inform us that we need to be very cautious because of a bad dog that could be dangerous. Those who read our electric meters, and those who deliver our mail have dealt with this problem for years. When they see a sign that says to beware of a bad dog, they know it means to be very careful.
The word beware is also one that is used extensively in the Bible. From the Greek language there are three words that are translated beware in the New Testament. We again appeal to W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. "1. Blepo, to see, is applied to mental vision and is sometimes used by way of warning to take heed against an object. 2. Prosecho, to turn one's mind or attention to a thing by being on one's guard against it. 3. Phulasso, to guard, watch, keep, is used in the Middle Voice, of being on one's guard against" (all emphasis mine, mwh).
From this information we see that when the Bible tells us to beware, we need to be warned of ensuing danger so that we might be on guard against it. Let's turn our attention now to the Scriptures, and notice some specific warnings of things (and people) we need to beware of.
(1) Lest We Forget God. In Deut. 6:10-25, the children of Israel are warned against disobedience to God. As they are encamped on the Plains of Moab ready to enter the Land of Promise, God, through Moses, renewed His covenant with them. The primary reason for the forty years of wilderness wandering, was because they had forgotten God and His commandments. Moses warns this new generation by saying, "Then beware lest thou forget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage" (Dent. 6:12; also cf. 8:11-20). Even though this warning is thousands of years old, we in the twentieth century should beware lest we forget God.
(2) False Prophets. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Mt. 7:15f). This stern warning comes from our Savior in the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us that we should be on our guard and take heed of the false prophets, or teachers. The reason for this is because they will come in "sheep's clothing," which means they will conceal their true nature, and act as though they were truly inspired prophets. The Lord goes on to say that we can know them by the things which they teach. We need to beware of anyone who proclaims the word of God, and do as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11. The Bible says of these people, ". . . they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
(3) Men. When Jesus sent forth the apostles "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," he told them certain things to beware of. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues . . ." (Mt. 10:16-17ff). The apostles were instructed to be on guard because of certain men they would come in contact with. These men would bring them before the rulers of the land, and would do detrimental things to them. Those of us today who preach and, teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, must likewise heed the warning to beware of men. As we venture forth in this world to preach Christ, we need to be on our guard against those who stand vehemently opposed to the Lord Jesus.
(4) Hypocrisy. Jesus said in Lk. 12:1, ". . . Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." The Pharisees were a sect of the Jews; and were very hypocritical and pretentious. They pretended to be religious, but in actuality they were fakes. They said one thing, and did another. In Matthew six, Jesus scolds them concerning their self-righteous deeds which they did "to be seen of men" (vv. 1-5). Again in Matthew twenty-three, Jesus directs His attention to the hypocritical Pharisees. The phrase, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," is used at least seven times. 'The Lord reveals His disdain for their hypocrisy, when he says in verse 28, "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Christians should be cautious against hypocrisy that may creep into our lives. We need to "practice what we preach."
(5) Dogs, Evil Workers. The apostle Paul told the brethren at Philippi, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision" (Phil. 3:2). Paul is not telling them to be on guard against a literal dog. The word dogs is from the Greek word kuon, and Thayer defines it as, "a man of impure mind, an inpudent man." Robinson says it is used figuratively in this passage, "where it is spoken of as Judaizing teachers." These Judaizers were teaching that Christians must keep the Jewish ordinance of circumcision. These men possibly gave Paul more heartaches and anguish than any other one thing he had to deal with. Paul calls them evil workers, and warns the Philippians to be cautious because of their evil teachings.
(6) Lest Any Man Spoil You. To the church at Colossae Paul said, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8). He instructs Christians to be on guard and to be cautious, lest these false teachers spoil (pervert) them from the simplicity of the gospel. These men were seeking to do this by means of philosophy and vain deceit. Philosophy comes from philosophia, which "denotes the love and pursuit of wisdom" (Vine). Thus, these men were seeking to overthrow the gospel by their love for worldly wisdom. This is a problem that Christians of all time periods have had to deal with (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). Men who are advanced in worldly wisdom will deceive us, unless we are on our guard and very cautious of their subtle tactics (Cf. 2 Cor. 11:1-15). They will also appeal to the traditions of men. Beware brethren!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 42, pp. 679-680