False Teachers Overview
I’ve brought up a lot about false religions and false doctrines in hopes that the Christian will hold all input to a biblical standard. I hope to see Christians in our culture become more discerning. With the rise of skepticism, liberal interpretations, and ear tickling there is a great need for discernment among Christians. In this blog the attention turns from religions at large to individuals at large.
As Christians we have an obvious standard to hold to- what the Bible teaches. If something is clearly biblical, teach it boldly and clearly. If something is questionable and debatable, then teach it as such. If something is your own opinion, make sure that people are aware of that and free to deviate. If something is clearly unbiblical, teach against it without fear of man.
I want to touch on 5 topics to get a clear view about our motives and objectives in dealing with wolves in sheep’s clothing- Pharisees, false teachers, deception, finding truth, and our job in tearing down these strongholds.
Pharisees: Jesus’ main focus of harsh scrutiny was directed toward the religious elite. The Pharisees followed the law and went far beyond it. Their goal was to appear perfect and blameless before the common people. They were the religious leaders over the common people, and as such they would put heavy burdens of legalism upon the Jews. Few people had the courage to speak out against these religious authorities.
Legalism is a primary type of false teaching, thus it was rebuked by Jesus Christ. There are plenty of “Pharisees” around still today, though they go by different titles. The Pharisees accuse Jesus and his disciples of breaking their law (Luke 7:37). They accuse them of breaking tradition (Luke 14:3). They accuse Jesus of associating with outcasts such as in Mt. 9:11.
How does Jesus respond? Does he just say “Ah, come on guys, just leave me alone”? He knew when they were falsely accusing him and he called them on it. Matthew recorded that they would try to trap Jesus with questions and accusations (Matthew 15:1). Jesus warned his followers to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees in Matthew 16:6. He referred to the yeast as hypocrisy in Luke 12:1. He would also call them a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7) and whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23: 27).
These men that look like they had it all together in their self-righteousness are in actuality the type of men that God despises the most. They are despised because they are tricky and deceptive. A white washed tomb is a nice picture of this. They are pretty on the outside, as if they have it all together, and dead on the inside, because their hearts are far from God. These men need to be shaken up and convinced that they are as desperate for a savior as anybody.
We are warned more about false teachers in the epistles. In Galatians 1:6 Paul warns them that they are turning to another gospel, which is not another gospel at all. There is one gospel and the people of Galatia were turning away from it, instead turning to the flesh, seeking to be perfected by the law. Anytime a preacher or teacher tells you that there are things of the law that you must hold to in order to attain or maintain your salvation, they are teaching heresy that is warned about in the Bible.
Peter warns about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But there were also false prophets among the people just is there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master that bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.” With such a stern warning of harsh punishment, it may actually be a very loving thing to rebuke a false teacher. It can help keep them from a harsh punishment and it definitely keeps other people from listening to their deception.
Look at some of the characteristics of the last days in 2 Timothy 3:2 and see if there are any false teachers that align with these characteristics.
1. People will be lovers of self, meaning they will be self promoting and into making a name for themselves.
2. People will be lovers of money. Most of us have seen famous TV teachers that go way beyond what they need to survive and think that they need to live a posh lifestyle, continually asking for money and donations (love of money, root of evil (1 Tim 6:10)).
3. People will be boastful and proud. You ever hear them brag about what their ministry has accomplished, how many people they are reaching, how anointed everything they do is, how charismatic and appealing the preacher thinks he is, that he holds some secret knowledge that you can only get from him?
4. People will be blasphemers. They will talk inaccurately about God. For example, have you heard the teaching that we are equal with God, or can become that way? Or the teaching that God can’t do anything without your faith? Or that God is still learning and progressing? Heresies. Often blasphemous.
5. People will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. You ever hear “Christian” music that is awesome musically, but completely void of biblical accuracy? How often do you see people miss out on an opportunity to worship God and learn his truth because it would be out of their way, inconvenient, or not as striking as what the world offers? How many people go to church because it feels good and feels right, but they fail to make the necessary uncomfortable sacrifices that God would ask of them? How many preachers fail to challenge them in such a way because they are afraid of compromising people’s level of comfort?
Let me offer some quick responses so that we can be aware of deception, to counter false teaching, and give us confidence in the face of it. Job 12:16 teaches us that God remains in control ultimately, even in the midst of deception. God would have us turn from deception in these 2 ways: We need to avoid arrogance, or being presumptuous (Obadiah verse 3). We need to know the power of God and the Scriptures (Mt. 23:29). An accurate view of God and an accurate view of the Scriptures will safeguard you from a huge amount of deception- dare I say, potentially, all of it.
We need a knowledge of the truth. If something is not the truth, what’s the sense in knowing it. The truth comes by revelation of Jesus (Galatians 1:12). Jesus is the truth personified (John 14:6). God’s word is the truth that sanctifies us (John 17:17). True knowledge comes by the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Overflowing from this knowledge is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). Jobs 37:16 and Psalm 139:6 remind us that God is perfect in knowledge. If He is the one possessing all knowledge and true understanding, then He is capable of distributing that type of wisdom on to those that fear Him and call on Him.
Finally, Ephesians 6:12 tells us where our battle is fought. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” The source of this wickedness brought on by wolves in sheep’s clothing is spiritual. They are seeking who they can devour and will be effectively countered by a people enamored with God and by God.
Even though I am convinced that there is a lot of false teaching out there both inside and outside of Christianity, I find comfort in Jesus’s words recorded in John 10:4,5: “The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” Do some sheep need to be warned, or are they not really the sheep of this Shepherd? Or maybe following the Good Shepherd takes knowledge, practice, and experience in order to trust His faithfulness like we should. But He is certainly in control of it, as Jude verses 24 and 25 say:
“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.”