Beware of dogs ... and people!
This mosaic is in the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy.
They say that barking dogs never bite. This is true. They
always stop barking before they bite!
The dog that bit me, did not bark. When I was twelve, I
was distributing advertising for my fathers TV repair business.
An elderly dog silently walked up behind me and left a clear set
of teeth marks in my leg. He obviously had an intense dislike of
Roman villas in Pauls day often had a floor mosaic in the
entrance showing a dog on a chain, sometimes with the words,
CAVE CANEM (Beware of the dog)!
It is wise to beware of dogs, but when Paul tells us,
of dogs in Philippians 3:2, he is referring to dogs of
the human variety. Jesus tells us, Beware
of people (Matthew
Beware of means to be on guard against, to be cautious
about, to be alert to potential danger from, to be ready to
avoid danger from.
People are dangerous!
Humans are the most dangerous creatures on earth. What
other form of life has destroyed cities with atomic bombs, and
maintains huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons?
The most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated (by the
Soviet Union on Severny Island above the Arctic Circle on
October 30, 1961) had 1400 times the power of the Hiroshima
and Nagasaki bombs combined, and ten times the power of all
other explosives used in World War II. This picture was taken
at a distance of 160 km. The atmospheric shock wave broke
windows in northern Norway and Finland, a thousand
In 1985 there were 68,000 active nuclear weapons. In the
meantime this has been reduced to about 20,000 that are
active or could easily be reactivated. Some of this reduction
comes from treaties, but most of it results from
decommissioning outmoded, obsolete weapons. Although there
are fewer bombs, their destructive capability has been
This is not something that mankind may be proud of.
Consider the resources this gobbles up, when much of the
world lacks food.
Yet, spiritual dangers are even greater.
A volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii, Italy under
five meters of ash, killing 15,000 people. Excavations have
unearthed several Beware of the dog mosaics. Someone
should have warned: Beware of the volcano! There are
greater dangers than dogs.
Although the danger of nuclear destruction threatens us
like a smoking Mount Vesuvius, we live in a world that is even
more dangerous spiritually. God warns us about spiritual
dangers that threaten our souls. Satan has laid spiritual
landmines along both sides of the narrow way that leads to life.
We must beware of falling away because of sin. We must
beware of false teachers, of religious leaders who exalt
themselves, and of persecutors.
Beware of falling away because of sin.
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil
heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort
one another daily, while it is called Today lest any of you be
hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12, 13).
The deceitfulness of sin is our greatest spiritual danger.
We must beware of anything that tempts us to sin and leads us
away from God.
Sin is glorified in the media, on the Internet, on television,
on the radio, in magazines.
At school, young people are taught how to be immoral,
and are fooled into thinking that immorality has no negative
The fashion world emphasizes sensuality. Social pressure
encourages us to be like everyone else.
We must beware of these corruptive influences.
We must exhort one another not to depart from the living
God through sin.
Referring to people who twist the Scriptures to their own
destruction, Peter gives a similar warning: You therefore,
beloved, since you know this beforehand,
lest you also
fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error
of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17, 18).
These verses refute the false doctrine of Once saved,
We must beware lest we fall from our own
steadfastness; we must beware lest we depart from the living
To avoid falling away through the deceitfulness of sin, we
must beware of anyone who tries to lead us into sin.
This includes being alert to dangers from false teachers,
religious leaders who exalt themselves, and persecutors.
Beware of persecutors.
Jesus warned His followers: Behold, I send you out as
sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents
and harmless as doves. But
of men, for they will deliver
you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues
(Matthew 10:16, 17).
How do Christians react to persecution? Jesus said: When
they persecute you in this city, flee to another (Matthew
10:23). Do not fear them (Matthew 10:26). He who finds his
life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it
Paul warned Timothy: Alexander the coppersmith did me
much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
You also must
of him, for he has greatly resisted our
words (2 Timothy 4:14, 15).
Paul was thankful that God had protected him: But the
Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message
might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles
might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve
me for His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:17, 18).
We must beware of persecutors. Yet, we need not be
afraid. An eternal home with God is waiting, whatever happens
Beware of religious leaders who exalt themselves.
Jesus warned, Beware
of the scribes, who desire to go
around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the
best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,
who devour widows houses, and for a pretense make long
prayers (Mark 12:38-40).
Pretentious religious leaders glorify themselves, not God.
We must beware of them.
Beware of false teachers.
We must beware of those who introduce teachings and
practices that are contrary to sound doctrine, that deviate from
the original teaching of Christ and His apostles: But there were
also false prophets among the people, even as there will be
false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive
heresies (2 Peter 2:1).
Jesus warns about their deceptive appearance and tells us
how to identify them: Beware
of false prophets, who come to
you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15, 16).
Jesus warned His followers against two prevalent errors:
Take heed and beware
of the leaven of the Pharisees and the
Sadducees (Matthew 16:6). The disciples did not know what
He meant by leaven until He clarified it. Then they understood
that He did not tell them to
of the leaven of bread, but
of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two major
denominations among the Jews at the time of Christ. They both
taught false doctrine.
The Sadducees rejected most of the Old Testament
outright, recognizing only the five books of Moses. They did not
believe in a resurrection, in angels, or in spirits (Acts 23:8).
They were liberalistic in their interpretation and application of
The Pharisees were the strictest sect of the Jews (Acts
26:5), but their piety was superficial. Jesus told them, You pay
tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the
weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith
(Matthew 23:23); All too well you reject the commandment of
God, that you may keep your tradition (Mark 7:9). They were
also lovers of money (Luke 16:14).
Thus, we are duly warned to beware of these doctrinal
errors, which are still prevalent today: a liberalistic
interpretation and application of Scripture, and a superficial
piety that exalts human doctrine above the word of God.
Jesus refers to these errors as leaven because they spread
Beware of those who base doctrine on the Old Covenant.
In the early church certain false teachers tried to impose
requirements of the Old Covenant, such as circumcision and
Sabbath-keeping, on Christians (Colossians 2:11-17). Paul
warns against them in the harshest of terms, Beware
of evil workers,
of the mutilation! For we are
the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in
Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians
Beware of those who base doctrine on philosophy and human traditions.
Paul warns: Beware
lest anyone cheat you through
philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men,
according to the basic principles of the world, and not according
to Christ (Colossians 2:8, 9).
Now I urge you, brethren,
who cause divisions
and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and
avoid them (Romans 16:17).
Referring to Johns baptism, Jesus asked the Jewish
leaders, Was it from heaven or from men? (Mark 11:30). We
ought to ask this question about all religious principles,
doctrines and practices: Is it from heaven or from men?
Everything that is not from God must be rejected.
During a recent walk I saw on a gate: Beware! Poisonous
frogs! Although I doubt that poisonous frogs were lurking
behind that gate, they really do exist! Touch the moisture on
the back of a Yellow Golden Poison Dart Frog and put your
finger in your mouth, and almost instantly you die. As the
name indicates, their poison was used on arrows. They are
among the most poisonous creatures on earth.
It is certainly wise to be wary of poisonous frogs, vicious
dogs, and a nuclear holocaust. But even more we must beware
of spiritual dangers.
to yourselves (Luke 17:3). Take heed
you hear (Mark 4:24). Take heed
that no one deceives you
(Matthew 24:4). Take heed
, watch and pray (Mark 13:33).
God warns us to beware of falling away through the
deceitfulness of sin, to beware of persecutors, to beware of
money-loving religious leaders who exalt themselves, to
beware of false teachers who interpret the Scriptures
liberalistically, to beware of false teachers who follow their own
rigid regulations rather than the Scriptures, to beware of false
teachers who base doctrine on the Old Covenant, on philosophy
or on human traditions.
Peters warning in 1 Peter 5:8, 9 is applicable: Be sober,
be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a
roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him,
steadfast in the faith. Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive