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HOW TO DEAL WITH FALSE TEACHING

STUDY 4: RECOGNIZE THE TRUE NATURE OF FALSE TEACHERS AND FALSE TEACHING

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007

This study looks at what the New Testament states about the nature of false teachers and their message. It does not contain much in the way of explanation or comment, but presents what the New Testament says and leaves its readers to come to their own conclusions.

One thing that needs to be kept clearly in mind is that the large majority of these descriptions were not about other religions or sects or cults, but about teachers and teaching within the visible people of God – that is, the Jews in the Gospels and Acts, and the church in the New Testament letters.

This serves as a serious warning to us that what we need to be particularly alert to is not so much those other religions and cults which we can tell at a glance are obviously different from biblical teaching, but the possibility, indeed the high probability, and, according to the New Testament, the inevitability, of false teachers and false teaching within the body of people which we identify, or which identifies itself, under a variety of denominational or individual group names as the Christian church - as followers of Jesus Christ.

A. IN THE GOSPELS AND ACTS

When we read the words that Jesus spoke either to or about false teachers and their messages we are left with no doubt that they are wrong and that we should avoid them at all costs. He tells us:

They are hypocritical:

Jesus frequently referred to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the Jews:

They are destructive:

The end result for those who listen to them is destruction:

They do not belong to or know Christ:

Jesus refused to acknowledge any relationship with false teachers, speaking scathingly about their lack of any real knowledge of or relationship to either him or his Father.

They are impactive:

Jesus did acknowledge that false teachers have a wide and strong impact, and that this very fact contributes to their ability to deceive.

They are subtle and deceptive:

The description given to false teachers by Jesus and the apostles bears great similarity to the Old Testament description of them as subtle and deceptive. This seems to be a constant theme right through the scripture.

B. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT LETTERS AND REVELATION

The New Testament letters and Revelation contain so many references to false teachers that it is rather overwhelming when they are brought altogether. To help us to get it all into some kind of perspective, the references from the letters and Revelation have been grouped into categories focused on aspects of the nature of false teachers.

It is important to remember that each individual false teaching or false teacher does not manifest every single one of these characteristics. Also, as indicated in Jesus’ indictment of their hypocrisy, some of these characteristics are hidden under an outward veneer of respectability and superficial godliness, which blinds their hearers to their true inner nature.

About their minds:

About their morals:

About their methods:

About their motives:

About their message:

About their allegiance:

About false teachers generally:

Note that many of the references in this section are from 2 Peter and Jude. These two letters deal with an extremely godless false teaching which encouraged a licentious and libertine antinomian lifestyle. Not all false teachers fit those extreme descriptions; some, especially of the legalistic kind, actually lived outwardly exemplary lives [e.g. the Pharisees].

As we have noted, not all of these characteristics are evident at the same time. False teachers can look good. False teaching can sound right. Legalistic false teachers can outwardly look more spiritual than many people who know and teach the true truth. The success of false teachers depends on their ability to deceive.