Tim Challies – How Jesus Called Out False Teachers and Deadly Doctrine

It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelled “haters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings — so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.

A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.

Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemics—the practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.

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Tim Challies – False Teachers and Deadly Doctrines

For the past few years, lists of Christian bestsellers have been topped by a book claiming fresh revelation from Jesus Christ. Before that, they were overrun by books describing people’s purported visits to heaven. And before the heaven tourism fad, there was the best-selling novel that reframed the doctrine of the Trinity. Meanwhile, the largest church in America is led by a man whose platitudes are indistinguishable from fortune cookies. But it’s not just authors and church leaders who are swerving away from the truth. Theologians and laypersons alike are abandoning traditional understandings of manhood and womanhood, of marriage and sexuality. Never has it been more important for Christians to commit themselves to rejecting false doctrine and pursuing sound doctrine, to ensure they are following teachers of truth, not peddlers of error.

In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers. In this opening article, we will briefly define the term “doctrine,” examine the two different kinds of doctrine, and then suggest eight terrible consequences of false doctrine.

Defining Doctrine

Doctrine simply means “teaching.” Doctrine describes what Christians believe based on the entirety of the Bible. Because God has given us a completed revelation of himself in the Scriptures, we can search this revelation and arrive at confident conclusions about his nature and works.

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Thomas Brooks – 7 Characteristics of False Teachers

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That Satan labours might and main, by false teachers, which are his messengers and ambassadors, to deceive, delude, and for ever undo the precious souls of men (Acts 20:28-30; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Eph. 4:14; 2 Tim. 3:4-6; Titus 1:11,12; 2 Peter 2:18,19): “I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err” (Jer. 23:13). “The prophets make my people to err” (Micah 3:5). They seduce them, and carry them out of the right way into by-paths and blind thickets of error, blasphemy, and wickedness, where they are lost forever. “Beware of false prophets, for they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat. 7:15). These lick and suck the blood of souls: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Phil. 3:2). These kiss and kill; these cry, Peace, peace, till souls fall into everlasting flames, Proverbs 7.

Now, the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colors, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself.

Now you may know them by these characters following:

THE FIRST CHARACTER

False teachers are men-pleasers (Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:1-4). They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophecy no unto us right things: speak to us smooth things; prophecy deceits”‘ (Isa. 30:10). “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so. And what will you do in the end thereof?” (Jer. 5:30,31). They handle holy things rather with wit and dalliance (playful come-on) then with fear and reverence. False teachers are soul-undoers. They are like evil chirurgeons, that skin over the wound, but never heal it. Flattery undid Ahab and Herod, Nero and Alexander. False teachers are hell’s greatest enrichers. Non acerba, sed blanda, Not bitter, but flattering words do all the mischief, said Valerian, the Roman emperor. Such smooth teachers are sweet soul-poisoners (Jer. 23:16,17).

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David Mathis – The Surprising Truth About False Teachers

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The question is not whether you ever hear the voice of false teachers. You do — probably every day. The question is whether you can discern which messages are false.

If you watch any television, listen to any radio or podcasts, keep up on the news, or interact at depth with just about anyone in modern society, you are being exposed to some form of false teaching. If you cannot identify any voices you hear as false, it’s not because you aren’t being exposed, but because you’re falling for it in some way.

For most of church history, it took extraordinary energy and effort to influence the masses. Messages had to be copied by hand, and teachers had to travel by foot or horseback. There were no cars or airplanes, and no printing presses, websites, or Facebook pages. But today just about every false teacher has a Twitter account.

How, then, does the church discern true teachers from false ones in a world like ours, where it’s easier than ever to spread false teaching?

False Teachers Will Arise

We begin by acknowledging not just the possibility of false teaching, but the certainty of it. We should not be surprised to find false teaching in the church today. Jesus and his apostles are very clear that false teachers will arise. They promise it. As Jesus says,

“False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:22–23; see also Matthew 24:24)

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Nathan Finn – How to Spot a False Teacher

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False teachers come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the most deranged cult leader to the most winsome television preacher. Too many professing Christians are duped into embracing heretical ideas or endorsing spiritually dangerous movements. Some of these movements even pass themselves off as evangelical.

If you’re a pastor, chances are at least a few of your church members have flirted with false teaching at some point in their spiritual journeys.

Of course, false teachers aren’t a recent phenomenon; they’ve been trying to undermine the gospel and corrupt God’s people since the earliest days of the church. Titus 1 shows us that Paul’s protégé, Titus, had to deal with the threat of false teachers among the Cretan Christians in the middle of the first century.

Serious Spiritual Threat

More than likely, the false teachers in Crete were unbelieving Jews foisting some sort of legalism on the church. In the latter part of Titus 1:10, Paul identifies them as part of “the circumcision party,” while verse 14 says they were “devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” Paul counters in verse 15 by arguing that purity is directly tied to belief rather than ritual. Further, he suggests unbelief results in defilement. Whatever the exact form of this legalistic heresy, Paul was concerned its teachers were contradicting the gospel and endangering God’s people.

Many dangerous doctrines contradict the gospel in our own day. Some argue the gospel is about trusting God to bring about worldly prosperity. Others suggest it’s possible to accept Jesus as your Savior while ignoring his claim to lordship over your life. Increasingly, some advocate homosexual marriage, ignoring both the Scriptures and 2,000 years of Christian moral and theological reflection. Some believe Christianity boils down to serving others or fighting for social justice—good things to be sure. But they say little about sin or atonement. Dangerous doctrines come in different shapes and sizes, but they have what Danny Akin calls “heretical math” — adding to, subtracting from, multiplying, or dividing the gospel — as their common denominator.

Bad Theology Often Equals Bad Morality

In Titus 1:6–9, Paul reminds Titus about the type of godly character that should exemplify the life of an elder, including a list of vices to be avoided. Then, in verses 10–16, he provides a laundry list of the false teachers’ sins, demonstrating how much they differ morally from godly pastors.

In verse 10, Paul writes, “There are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.” They weren’t working according to God-ordained authority structures. There’s a reason so many false teachers today begin new movements or work as independent ministers through television or the Internet.

In verse 11, Paul says the false teachers spread their views for “shameful gain.” We don’t know who supported these false teachers or how they supported them. All we know is financial gain motivated them. Many false teachers today accumulate great wealth by selling their bad doctrine to deceived people. (Think private jet.)

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Colin Smith – 7 Traits of False Teachers

“There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.” (2 Peter 2:1)

There are no “ifs, ands, or buts” in Peter’s words. It’s a clear and definite statement. There were false prophets among the people (of Israel in the Old Testament). That’s a matter of history.

False prophets were a constant problem in the Old Testament, and those who falsely claimed to be prophets of God were to be stoned. The people rarely had the will to deal with them, so they multiplied, causing disaster to the spiritual life of God’s people.

In the same way Peter says, “There will be false teachers among you.” Notice the words “among you.” Peter is writing to the church and says, “There will be false prophets among you.” So he is not talking about New Age people on television. He is talking about people in the local church, members of a local congregation.

There is no such thing as a pure church this side of heaven. You will never find it. The wheat and the tares grow together. Warren Wiersbe writes:

Satan is the counterfeiter. . . . He has a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), preached by false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:13-12), producing false Christians (2 Corinthians 11:26). . . . Satan plants his counterfeits wherever God plants true believers (Matthew 13:38).

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