“Pastor Ed, have you heard of this new false teaching?” It’s a question I get all the time.
It seems like every couple of years a new spokesperson emerges with a false Gospel or erroneous teaching. To many listeners, these teachings come across as new and fascinating, but in reality, they are often rehashed heresies that raise their ugly heads at opportune times throughout the course of church history. The teachings are not necessarily new, only the messengers are—new dogs with old tricks, if you will.
The Christian church has been hounded by false teachers from the earliest years of its inception. In the first century, the Apostle Peter was alarmed by the number of false teachers who were beginning to penetrate the persecuted and scattered church. These teachers were exploiting the people’s hunger for truth as well as their willingness to welcome those who come in the name of the Lord. Left unabated, these “theological dogs” would cause unthinkable damage to the people of God and the cause of the church. Peter, therefore, had to step in by warning the flock about the dangers of such false teachers. In his second epistle he wrote,
But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed. (2 Peter 2:1-3, NLT)
According to Peter, there are a few things we need to keep in mind about false teachers:
- False teachers are nothing new. They were around in the early times of Israel’s history and they will continue to hound God’s people until the final day. This means that we always need to be vigilant and prepare ourselves to confront false teachers and their false doctrines. But we can only do so as disciplined students of Christ and his Word.
- False teachers are clever. People fall for their schemes because they know exactly what people will fall for. They use fancy words, make enticing promises, and employ manipulative methods to reel unsuspecting victims. To combat the works of the false teacher, we ought to be grounded on God’s truth as well as be even more clever than they are.
- False teachers have a butchered theology. Heresy, for the most part, paints an inaccurate picture of God and his nature. Within the first four hundred years since the birth of New Testament Christianity, about half a dozen major Christological heresies plagued the church. These heresies continue to linger today, simply taking the form of newer and more sophisticated garb. The more we learn about the false doctrines of the past, the better able we will be in combatting modern heresies.
- False teachers are enemies of truth. False teachers have no reverence for the truth. They will either change it or alter it just enough to fool an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes false teaching has enough truth in it to make it sound credible, yet the small amount of falsehood is enough to poison the entire stew. Remember, a half-truth is no truth at all.
- False teachers are greedy. At their core, false teachers do what they do for personal gain. They have no love for God nor are they committed to the cause of Christ. They use the Gospel to enrich themselves and prop up their already-inflated egos. A true servant of God is humble, selfless, and fully surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
- False teachers face a frightful future. Their end is one of judgment and destruction. False teachers are not to be believed nor followed because their path is one that leads to eternal separation from Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
*Tricks photo courtesy of google images.