Intro: What dangers do God’s people face? Your list might be different from mine. We tend to be concerned about different things. But when we access God’s answer to the question we would be forced to put false teaching near the top of the list.
Of all the dangers facing believers and non-believers alike, false teachers are near the top. Some would even say false teachers are the number one threat when it comes to harming and destroying others.
Have you ever heard false teaching? Certainly we all have. Even if we did not recognize it as such. If you Watch television, listen to the radio, or gather information from the internet, you are exposed to error. We may even be falling for some of it.
In past generations, it may have taken some effort to influence a lot of people at once. In the first century, messages had to be copied by hand and delivered by hand, traveling by foot or horseback. Things have changed. Information, even false info, can be transmitted around the world instantly. Christians and churches can be influenced from the other side of the world. Today just about every false teacher has a Twitter account.
I. You Have Been Warned… We have considered the apostle’s opening words of concern to young Timothy in 1 Timothy There were those who had swerved away from the gospel message to fables, myths and endless genealogies. Paul’s admonition to Timothy is… charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1 Tim 1:3)
A. We first notice what we concluded earlier; Paul’s words imply objective truth. There cannot be another gospel without the first – There cannot be false teaching without objective true teaching. Truth is the product of God’s revelation. Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. (John 17:17)
B. But Paul’s words to Timothy are not the first, or only warning against false teaching. The fact of the matter is that there are myriads of warnings issued to God’s people against false teaching and false teachers.
• Jer. 23:16 – Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
• Mark 13:22-23– “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.”
• Acts 20:28-30 – 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
• 2 Peter 2:1-3 –But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
II. Identifying the False Teacher: How can we discern?
A. Test the spirits – 1 John 4:1-3– Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. John wrote late in the first century when many of the heresies that had been predicted earlier were beginning to emerge, or were already flourishing.
1. spirits here is being used as a reference to ideas, or teachings. Notice again that there were teachings from God and those not from God. The goal was to discard what was not from God. This is a direct reference to the presence of inspired teaching. An established set of truth for all time from God.Jude wrote – contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
a. John’s first test is to look at the historical facts concerning the life of Jesus – His incarnation (come in the flesh) Any person who denies the facts revealed in the New Testament regarding the life of Christ is a false teacher and his message is not from God (antichrist). [Those who deny his virgin birth, miracles, his innocence; his death, burial, and bodily resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God; and his divine nature.]
b. John’s second test – 1 John 4:5-6 – They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. John is speaking as a representative of the apostles – the inspired men- who recorded the very thoughts of the Holy Spirit. They “are of God.”, as opposed to the false teachers who are of the world – no middle ground. Those who “know God” are those who demonstrate through their words and deeds that they are receiving their information from the only source of divine truth—the apostolic doctrine of scripture. In short, those who don’t listen to Christ’s apostles and inspired teachers don’t know God.
B. The test in action; Acts 17:10-11 – 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. The scriptures here are the OT scriptures, but the principle and process is the same, as it rests on the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal the mind of God through foundational teaching of special messengers. God’s church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
C. The False Teacher and Sin: As a corollary to what we just considered, a teacher’s beliefs and doctrine concerning sin is one of the clear ways to identify the false teacher.
1. How accurately they emphasize and handle sin and explain the consequences of sin—according to Scripture.
2. How much, and how accurately they emphasize the right solution to sinand its consequences—according to Scripture (e.g., the gospel, the cross, repentance, confession, baptism)
3. Do they attempt to minimize sin and justify themselves.? Jesus recognized this among the Pharisees – And [Jesus] said to [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” -Luke 16:15
4. Consider the first false teacher – Satan himself.
a. False Teachers cast doubt on God’s words. Taking an adversarial view It is common for false teachers to distort the words of God and impugn the God Himself. (does not really mean that)
• And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” –Genesis 2:16-17
• Now the serpent was more cunning [or “subtle” or “crafty”] than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” -Genesis 3:1
b. False Teachers presented an inaccurate view of one’s responsibility to God’s words. Satan suggested to Eve that she would not experience the consequences God had revealed.
• God: “… for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” –Genesis 2:17
• Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” –Genesis 3:4
False teachers often deceive others by giving too little responsibility, or too much responsibility. The Pharisees used the law to increase the burdens on others – binding the traditions of men. But others minimize accountability and condone sin.
c. False teachers will often condemn the people who warn others of sin and its destruction. They accuse them of being fear-mongers, divisive or “haters”. Satan accused God of trying to keep them from some extra-special knowledge, status, experience, or blessing. Satan said… For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. – Genesis 3:5
2. Paul described false teachers of his day as the enemies of the cross – For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. –Philippians 3:18-19
a. They are enemies of the cross, not just because they might fail to teach the truth about the event, but because false teaching subverts the goal of the cross, and leaves the sinner in his sin.
b. False Teachers Preach a Different Gospel – Jeremiah spoke of those false prophets of old, who failed to reprove sin and walked in lies.
• Jer 23:13-14 – And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal And caused My people Israel to err. 14 Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness.
• Jer 23:17 – They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace”‘; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.'”
• Jer 23:20-22 – The anger of the Lord will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. 21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.
• In Lamentations 2:14 Jeremiah spoke this… Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions;they have not uncovered your iniquity,to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions. –