Listening to some Christian radio the other day, the person being interviewed happened to mention the name of a fairly well-known speaker who I listen to quite often. They suggested this person was a “false teacher,” and make a passing remark about why they thought that.
I then did what I probably should not have done… (check out my series on Proverbs for advice on wise choices!). I googled! A few simple key words led me straight to a web site which laid out in detail why this particular preacher was a false teacher. Naturally, they had links to other Bible teachers I am familiar with, and foolishly, I clicked.
Before long, I had a whole list of so-called “false teachers” to deal with. This was, of course, just one opinion, but I personally find it difficult once seeds of doubt have been sown.
We should be wary of false teachers:
But false prophets also arose among the people, as false teachers will also be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. 2 Many will follow their immoral[a] ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned. 3 In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber.2 Peter 2:1-3 (WEB)
There are clearly false teachers in the world and in the church, proclaiming a distorted gospel which is no Gospel at all. Some deny Christ, and others deny the truth of the Bible. We must be on the look out for such people, and defend the faith against those who would malign it (to borrow from Peter’s words above).
There are clearly false teachers in the world and in the church, proclaiming a distorted gospel which is no Gospel at all. #Bible #truth #ChristianityTweet
This is a very difficult issue however, and the problem with being deceived is that you do not know about it, otherwise you would not be deceived at all. How do we guard against such things? I will give you my thoughts shortly.
Before I do, I want to point out that there is no ministry of criticism. The website I stumbled across yesterday listed many preachers and their faults, but gave little or no alternatives. It is no one’s job or calling to simply point out what everyone else is doing wrong. We should be alert to false teaching, and address it appropriately when we encounter it, but that is very different to setting yourself up as the Gospel police.
So how do we defend against false teaching? Here are a few thoughts.
Know your Bible
You cannot hope to detect falsities if you do not know the truth. Set about knowing the Scriptures for yourself. If someone makes a claim which is clearly contrary to what the Bible says, you know you can safely dismiss it.
When travelling on a journey, you need to know your route. If you know the destination and how to reach it, then you will soon know if you take a wrong turn. If you know now the destination nor the path to get there, every road looks the same.
Systematically study the Word of God. Let Scripture speak for itself. Let it be its own defence. One verse out of context does not a doctrine make. Scripture must be interpreted in the light of other Scripture.
Know the teacher
Get to know the Bible teacher you are listening to, and I do not mean personally (although that is always helpful!). Find out a bit more about them. Anyone who’s anyone can get a website, write a blog or publish a book these days (including me) and unfortunately that does not always qualify them to speak into your life.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)
If the teacher is bearing bad fruit, then I would suggest not listening to them, even if they are charismatic, interesting or exciting – or if everyone else listens to them.
If they are bearing good fruit, then it gives you confidence that they are at least attempting to follow Jesus.
Listening to the radio or watching Christian TV makes it very difficult to be a fruit inspector however. What someone portrays on screen may be very different to what they are like behind closed doors. Be discerning, do your research (bearing in mind it is easier to criticise than anything else) and measure what you hear against the Bible.
Know the Truth Giver
If you have made every effort to get to know the teachers you are following, and based that against your hopefully good knowledge of the Bible, then the last and most important point I can make is this – know the Bringer of Truth.
However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.John 16:13 (WEB)
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you. Do not attempt to follow the Spirit without first knowing your Bible, as it can be all too easy to be deceived if you do. But, the Spirit, hand in hand with the Bible, will lead you into all truth.
Avoiding false teachers is not as easy as it might seem. If you search for anyone on the web, you will find something wrong with them. We are all imperfect, and not one of us has complete understanding. All we can do is be mindful of false teaching around us, take the steps above and ensure we are following Christ and bearing fruit.
May the Lord protect you from all falsehood and deception, and may the Spirit of Truth bless you with insight and understanding. In the name of Jesus! Amen
7 thoughts on “False Teachers”
Good advice Andy, thanks for this. As you say there are a lot of “preachers” about but I always find it useful to use the ones who write and get published by the Good Book Company, I think they are safe and true to God’s word. Also a lot of the old ones like CS Lewis, William Barclay’s study books and the like. They may be “old fashioned” but they knew their Bible well and always encourage us to do that too.
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Thank you Sheila. There are some great “old-fashioned “books out there!
From the bible we shouldn’t wonder if there are false teachers – we should have expect them
I’m also reminded of an interview between Dr Michael Brown and Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church – all about allegations of false teaching at Bethel.
Bill Johnson made a great point that has stuck with me. He pointed out that all teachers and preachers say things that aren’t what they meant, and may not be perfectly delivered. Because words can be mispoken. But, they’re hard to be missed when in HD quality and with a reach of millions of people, and the ability to repeatedly study something somebody said.
That made me think – I’ve heard plenty of unbiblical things spoken from the pulpit. But almost entirely by accident, not in purpose. I knew the people, and I knew their heart. We all are human, and will mis-speak at various points.
God looks at the heart, and we need to aim for that
There’s never a justification for allowing heresy from the front of a church. However, preachers and teachers are more harshly judged, and, like you say, there is no ministry of criticism – a great way of talking about it.
I’m also reminded of a brand new convert who was asked to speak at a rally – and share his faith. He spoke passionately, and many people came to Christ that night.
He pointed out he’d been a Christian for less than 48 hours, and knew he said a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t quoted from the bible that he had, to this point, never read it studied.
He was taken aside, after the meeting, by the preacher who invited him. He was encouraged in his own faith, given a bible, and later went on to become a minister.
He was also asked if he could sweat a bit less when speaking publicly…his language was very colourful, and thus unbiblical in that sense…and yet his heart was used by God that night, and many came to faith through his misspoken words.
I’m not justifying bad words from the pulpit, but just am aware we need to be careful not to judge the messenger, since we’re also all called to test what we hear anyway.
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Thank you for your thoughts here. Yes it is very likely that most false teaching is done by accident rather than intent. No one has 100% perfect understanding and so we all make mistakes at times. I suppose all we can do is keep learning and growing and doing our best.
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False teaching is rife in this 21st Century, some of it inadvertently and sadly some of it deliberately. Trying to stay afloat in this world with many such hazards is impossible in our own strength – we need a Guide. God is the only reliable Guide, through His Holy Spirit working in our receptive hearts. Even the most loyal of disciples slip sometimes, just look at Peter. But praise God there was redemption for Peter and there is for us today when we slip!
Andy, I agree wholeheartedly with your statement: “You cannot hope to detect falsities if you do not know the truth.” Studying our Bible is essential if we are to walk in the Truth. I read that experts on counterfeit currency first carefully study the genuine currency before looking at the counterfeit. When they have done that, they recognize counterfeit money immediately. Blessings, Andy!
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Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, knowing the truth is definitely essential.
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