False Teachers and False Doctrine


False Teachers and False Doctrine

The Scripture has much to say about false prophets, false teachers and the false doctrines they proclaim. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves…” (Matt. 7:15). Just as wolves are dangerous, so are false teachers. Peter warned his brethren of “…false prophets…among the people… false teachers, who shall…bring in damnable (i.e. destructive) heresies” (I Pet. 2:1).

False teachers teach things contrary to the revealed will of God. They contest, contradict or deny the message God has given us. Rather than leading men to God or in His righteous paths, false teachers lead them away from God or lead them to disobey God. In either case, as Peter said, their teaching is damnable or destructive. It is damnable to the souls of those whom they deceive. It is destructive to the church. False teaching will inevitably cause confusion, strife and division among God’s people.

False teachers are of three categories. First there are those who sincerely and truly believe they are teaching God’s truth. It is not their intention to do harm. However they are mistaken about serious matters of the faith and their teaching leads unsuspecting souls astray.

Then there are those who are proud, dominant men who are convinced that they alone have the correct knowledge of God’s Word. They are self-willed (II Pet. 2:10) and determined that their understanding will prevail. Be they right or wrong in their views they will insist that others must yield to their thinking. They often cause division in the ranks of God’s people.

Last there are those who are both morally and spiritually wicked, yet they are determined to stay within the church. Some do so for money, some for power, some for opportunities to abuse those under their influence and some to intentionally harm the Lord’s church. Peter described such corrupt men in his second epistle, “…men that count it pleasure to revel in the day-time, spots and blemishes, reveling their deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unsteadfast souls, having a heart exercised in covetousness…forsaking the right way…” (II Pet. 2:13-15).

While Satan uses all three classes of men to accomplish his evil will against God, the church and the souls of men, this last category is the most despicable. They defy God, they despise the church, and they have no respect for the Scripture. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day they are sons of Satan and his will they eagerly do (John 8:44).

It would be a mistake to assume that anyone who is mistaken about any aspect of God’s Word is therefore a false teacher. We say this because no finite man can fully understand the teaching of the infinite God. Even the wisest teachers who have spent a lifetime searching the scriptures might not fully or correctly understand every word of every line of the Sacred Book.

* This difference is seen in the dedicated servant of God who sincerely and to the best of his knowledge strives to know and do God’s will. His honest heart will readily admit any wrong in his life or teaching and immediately make the necessary adjustment to please God. If he is mistaken in his understanding and teaching, it is not by intent for his heart is fully set to obey the Lord. The false teacher lacks this degree of sincerity and honesty. He fights to defend his view, even when he is shown that it is contrary to Scripture.

* There is a difference in that about which a man is mistaken. There are fundamental truths that are essential to man’s salvation. There are many things mentioned in the Bible, while important, are not essential in nature. One need not know the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (II Cor.12:7). We might disagree on the specific fulfillment of some obscure prophecies. There will be some disagreement about the meaning of some highly figurative language or some obscure reference to some ancient custom. Good men have disagreed about how the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

But there are great truths which must be understood, believed and acted upon if we would be saved. Among these are the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the inspiration and authority of the Bible, God’s plan of salvation and the importance of his church. The proper worship of God, etc.

A man falls into the category of “false teacher” if his motive or intention is evil. By that I mean if his error grows out of his stubbornness, his false pride, his lack of respect for God and his Word (II Pet. 2:10). He stands condemned as a false teacher if his teaching leads men away from God (Jer. 50:6) and if it causes division among God’s people. God hates those who sow discord among brethren (Prov. 6:16-19).

Remember the words of Paul, “Let no man deceive you with empty words” (Eph. 5:6).

–John Waddey (Fortify Your Faith)






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