Be on Guard for False Teachers...Pt.1
This is one of the issues that I have become more irritated, frustrated, flustered, bothered, and concerned with that is so perilous to the Christian faith and prominent in modern churches--watered down false theology. As this is one of the most emphasized concepts in the New Testament, I will make this study a two-part series. The first will establish what the Bible says about the anticipation of false teachers, prophets, witnesses, etc. Once we are on the same page as to what to expect, we will discover ways that we can identify these teachers and how we are instructed (Biblically) to react to such people. I would like to also state ahead of time, the Bible (the whole thing) is the sole source of this study. I believe every letter, gospel, epistle, etc. is the text God intended for us to have and holds "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, I respect it greatly. If you would like to talk about authorship, inspiration, or the like, feel free to reach out. Otherwise, let's proceed with the study.
When a man or woman has committed his or herself to the gospel of Christ through faith and obedience, things should change in his or her life. What do I mean? What appears to be abundantly available in today's churches is this idea of "cheap" grace and "varied (some here and some there)" faith. People will surely hear "As long as you love Jesus you will be fine", and again, "It is okay, God will forgive you if you only ask." These are just a couple of examples of false teaching, and it is harming the body of Christ. We know that when we come to Christ, we know very little about what the Bible says and the depth of instruction that lies ahead. However, when people who are responsible for the oversight and nurturing of the souls of the church preach such theologies, very little is provided regarding growth for those individual members. This is why it so frustrating to me!
When we attend church, we hope to hear something that we can learn from and something practical that we can implement to help us in our walk. If I attended a church (as a recent convert) where the only information I ever found out was "Jesus loves you", "God loves you", "Pray this prayer...", it is very unlikely that I would ever learn the harsh realities of sin; further increasing the chances that I fall away. Oddly enough, this is absolutely something that the apostles predicted would happen, and a matter that even Christ himself said would come to fruition.
What does the New Testament mention about the coming of false teachers?
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:15-16)
"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Mat. 24:11-12)
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance" (Mat. 24:24-25)
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on alert..." (Acts 20:29-30)
"Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting" (Romans 16:17-18).
"Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face" (2 Corinthians 11:19-20)
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7)
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" (Galatian 3:1)
"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14)
"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:17-18)
"(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence" (Colossians 2:22-23)
"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1)
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sounds words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 1:13)
What more should I say? False teachings, divisiveness, factions, arrogance, egotism have been an occurrence since the beginning of the church. Yet, for some reason, we allow ourselves and our friends to fall into the hands of this very type of teaching. Those who teach baptism is optional, homosexuality is permissible, divorce is acceptable, fornication is admirable, worship is your preference, etc. reduce the sacrifice and example of Christ to rubble. They stomp on the words in the Bible, written by "men of whom the world was not worthy." We allow rationalism, the idea that we can make a sound judgment based on our own opinions and experiences, to pollute the sound doctrine found in the Bible. Worse yet, we allow ourselves and our children to follow such teaching.
We are part of a time where cultural identification outweighs the path of righteousness. We would rather be accepted and accepting than stand for truth. We have allowed our churches to become places that resemble concerts and not worship. We have degraded Christ's body with the allowance of passivity and acceptance for sin when we should be the ones who are (1) aware of the false teaching (2) expecting of false doctrine (3) sound enough to defend our faith. We see people making a mockery of the Lord's Supper by doing foolish exercises during the time of utmost seriousness (1 Corinthians 11:27). We pat the backs of the adulterer and tell them we are there for them. Is this what we were supposed to do? No! Refer to 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-10.
We cannot allow this trend to continue. If you believe what your Bible says, then you know that the false teachers are out there. Not all churches preach the truth. Not all ministers mean well. Not all teaching is sound. Rather, "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). By now, you know what your teaching should align with, that is, the Bible. I know this seems radical, harsh, or a bit much, but these things are the truth. I am tired of my brothers and sisters being misled by false teachings and cultural acceptance. We are called to be in this world but not of this world. "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES" (Hebrews 10:26-27."
I hope you receive this in love. You are a part of the body, the same body as I am. We are part of Christ and should hold one another to a higher standard than the world accepts. Indeed, we are called to such a standard. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
As always, if there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to ask.
Until next time...
"Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9)
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:10-11)