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There is a reason to be wary of flatterers with smooth speech: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’

By Elizabeth Prata

In 1 Corinthians 15:33, we read Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”


Every translation of this verse begins with the warning not to be deceived.

In context, Paul had been “addressing problems regarding their worship practices (11:2–14:40), Paul continues by addressing reports about the Corinthians’ beliefs. In this chapter, he focuses on the issue of resurrection.” Source Faithlife Study Bible

Paul sends them a strong warning about their beliefs, which had been and could continue to be corrupted by smooth talkers. Barnes’ Notes explains so clearly:

Be not deceived – By your false teachers, and by their smooth and plausible arguments. This is an exhortation. He had thus far been engaged in an argument on the subject. He now entreats them to beware lest they be deceived – a danger to which they were very liable from their circumstances.

Evil communications – The word rendered “communications” means, properly, a being together; companionship; close contact; converse. It refers not to discourse only, but to contact, or companionship. Paul quotes these words from Menander, a Greek poet.

It is implied in this, that there were some persons who were endeavoring to corrupt their minds from the simplicity of the gospel. The sentiment of the passage is, that the contact of evil-minded men, or that the close friendship and conversation of those who hold erroneous opinions, or who are impure in their lives, tends to corrupt the morals, the heart, the sentiments of others.

It is always true that such contact has a pernicious effect on the mind and the heart. It is done:
(1) By their direct effort to corrupt the opinions, and to lead others into sin.
(2) by the secret, silent influence of their words, and conversation, and example.

We have less horror at vice by becoming familiar with it; we look with less alarm on error when we hear it often expressed; we become less watchful and cautious when we are constantly with the frivolous, the worldly, the unprincipled, and the vicious. Hence, Christ sought that there should be a pure society, and that his people should principally seek the friendship and conversation of each other.

It is in the way that Paul here refers to, that Christians embrace false doctrines; that they lose their spirituality, love of prayer, fervor of piety, and devotion to God. It is in this way that the simple are beguiled, the young corrupted, and that vice, and crime, and infidelity spread over the world. –End Barnes Notes

This is why we do not ‘eat the meat and spit out the bones’. We avoid false teachers altogether. We avoid close continual contact with those who are morally corrupt, unsaved. You see the processes Barnes outlined: the secret silent influence of a corrupt person’s words will infiltrate and dampen our horror of sin, make us less watchful, and then we begin to think and act impurely.

It’s why Jude 1:23 says And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh

Jude is saying we should be careful if we choose to help a doubter or one that’s involved with false teaching.

even the garment—do not let pity degenerate into connivance at their error. Your compassion is to be accompanied “with fear” of being at all defiled by them. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

It’s because the risk is so great. Our society has fallen into a tolerance of sin. Many have no horror of it. Worse, we believe that if sin comes in soft words and flattering or charming packages, is is to be accepted. When you look up flattery in Nave’s dictionary, the entry says –


God considers flattery to be an evil deceit! Yet we think of it as a ‘respectable sin‘ as Jerry Bridges would call it. This should not be so. But it works because the false teachers use words of flattery to deceive the simple. (Romans 16:18)

Flattery is defined as: “Insincere and undeserved praise or words of encouragement, used with the intention of gaining favour with others.”

Flattery is deceitful
Ps 12:2-3 See also Ps 5:9; 55:20-21; 62:4; Pr 27:6; Jer 9:8

The results of flattery are ruinous
Pr 26:28 See also Pr 29:5

Flattery is rejected by godly people
Job 32:21-22 See also Gal 1:10; 1Th 2:5-6

Honesty is preferable to flattery
Pr 28:23 See also Pr 16:13; 27:9

False teachers use flattery
Ro 16:17-18 See also 2Ti 4:3-4; Jude 16-19. Source: Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. Martin Manser.

Hanging around worldly people, flatterers, gossips, charmers with twisted doctrine is bad for your soul. Commune with the believers who are pure, strive for holiness, and enjoy refreshing, Godly conversations. You will be the better for it!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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