False Doctrine

False Teachers

False Teachers

A few years ago I was in a church during their Sunday School service. It was a rather relaxed gathering, like most other Sunday School services, where those attending could add their 2¢ during the “teaching.”

The topic this particular Sunday morning was “False Teachers.” The text under consideration was 2 Peter chapter 2. Emotions ran along the high end of the spectrum, and even more notably in one particular man. This one individual was obviously terrified by the mere thought of “false teachers” entering into the Church and dragging people away from the truth of God’s Word.

It is that particular topic, on that particular morning, which leads to, what stands out in my mind as being the quintessential paradox of our time. Not so much the notion of “false teachers,” but rather the “Fear of False Teachers.” It is this fear of false teachers that I perceive to be the living paradox of twenty-first century Christianity.

While the fearful gentleman mentioned above went on at length about having to guard against these false teachers, it became quite clear that he felt helpless and was at the mercy of his pastor’s ability to guard the flock. This is why I find myself at the keyboard today.

Now, admittedly, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer at all times. But it is easy to deduce that there are only three ways in which “false teachers” can get into the Church:

  • Your pastor invites them in,
  • You invite them in, or
  • They walk in on their own

While false teachers may use any one of these doorways to infiltrate the Church, each of those doorways shares a common weakness; ignorance of Bible doctrine. It can hardly be disputed that the only valid reason to fear false doctrine (false teaching) is a personal failure to grasp true biblical doctrine. To put it a little more bluntly, if you do not KNOW what the Bible says, you cannot reject what someone CLAIMS the Bible says. Therefore, if YOU do not know Bible doctrine, then YOU are susceptible to embracing ANY doctrine.

If what I have said so far has you squirming and fearful, then you may want to head for the TV and try to catch some I Love Lucy reruns because this article is to call people to accountability and maturity. I make no pretense at an apology for its sternness.

False doctrine and false teachers is a recurring theme in the epistles. It comes as no surprise, then, that Paul commands us to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and John tells us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). Believers have a sacred duty to examine every doctrine we are exposed to and determine if that doctrine is true or false. But how can we know the difference between good teachers and bad teachers; between sound doctrine and heresy? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? Believers must test or judge all doctrine, and we have five (5) criteria by which to test or judge all doctrine.

It must be understood and agreed upon at the onset; What Is Declared To Us In The Bible Is Sound Doctrine. Therefore, our first “test” is—

Testing The Source of The Doctrine:
Healthy doctrine comes from God; false doctrine originates with someone or something created by God. Good doctrine comes from within God himself (Titus 1:2), false doctrine originates outside of God. Paul was a real stickler on the issue of doctrine and stressed to the Church in Galatia that the doctrine he preached was not of his own making, but he was given that doctrine by God.

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).

Yes, it really is that simple: Sound teaching originates with God and false teaching originates with men or demons. No need to make it complicated (a hint that it is false doctrine). False doctrine is scarred by its worldly origin. In his epistle to the Church in Colossae, Paul warned the Colossians not to accept or embrace any doctrine that is “according to man-made rules and teachings (Colossians 2:22).” Additionally, Paul’s warning to Timothy was that some would “
depart from the faith by paying attention to deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Timothy 4:1).”

To employ the test we need only ask the question:

Does this doctrine originate with God or has it been fabricated by someone or something else?

But what if you are not immediately able to determine the source of the doctrine? Sometimes the source of a doctrine is easily identified, but if it is not, then you need to add another test.

Testing The Authority of The Doctrine:
Sound doctrine receives its authority from within the Bible; false doctrine receives its authority from outside the Bible. The Bible is God’s unerring, infallible, sufficient, complete, and authoritative revelation of himself to all of humanity. Doctrines that originate in God’s mind subsequently recorded in God’s Word. There is an unfailing and necessary symbiosis between source and authority; between God and his Word.

You may recall the noble Bereans who “
received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). The Bereans knew, even then, that all doctrines must be compared to God’s Word, his source of truth. When I was the pastor of a Church, I frequently told the congregation that they should not blindly trust what I declared from the pulpit. I implored them to check my doctrine against the backdrop of Scripture to make absolutely certain they had heard the truth of God’s Word.

To employ the test we need only ask the question:

Does this doctrine rely solely upon the Bible for its authority, or does it appeal to another source or to another mind?

Still, we may yet be unable to discern between true and false because two teachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. This ushers in the need for a third test.

Testing The Consistency of The Doctrine:
Sound doctrine is always consistent with the whole of Scripture; false doctrines are consistent only with some selected portions of Scripture. There is an organic unity to true doctrine; false doctrine has a hybrid, unnatural strangeness to it.

Paul warned Timothy about embracing “
a different doctrine,” while the author of the book of Hebrews warned about being carried away “by various strange teachings.” It is apparent that both writers were emphasizing that all doctrine must always be compared to the established, accepted body of truth. Those who are best acquainted with that body of truth are the most likely to immediately identify and refute all that is false.

This concept is bound to a primary theological principle, “the analogy of faith,” which is often explained with the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.”

Because the Bible originates in the infallible mind of God, it must be consistent throughout. Because there is no contradiction in the mind of God, there can be no contradiction in the revelation of God. What the Bible teaches in one place it cannot refute in another. Therefore, all true doctrine must be consistent with the whole message of Scripture. No doctrine should ever be treated in isolation. All doctrine must be tested or judged in light of a correct understanding of the entire Bible. A key tactic of false teachers is to isolate verses or ideas that cannot stand up to the scrutiny of the whole Book.
To employ the test we need only ask the question:

Is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of Scripture?

Once we have put a doctrine to the test and it proves to be true, according to the three criteria we have thus far considered, we may then observe its wholesome effects on us and those around us. That will require putting the doctrine through two more tests.

Testing The Spiritual Growth From of The Doctrine:
Sound doctrine is necessary and beneficial for spiritual health; false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness and even spiritual death. This is a basic premise that we live by even in the secular arena. Good food is necessary and beneficial for physical health; bad food leads to physical weakness and even physical death.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul stated, “
If you lay all these instructions before the brethren, you will be a worthy steward and a good minister of Christ Jesus, ever nourishing your own self on the truths of the faith and of the good [Christian] instruction which you have closely followed.” (1 Timothy 4:6). Timothy had been trained by his grandmother (Lois) and his mother (Eunice), and later by Paul himself, in the Bible and Christian doctrine. Timothy nurtured himself in the truths he had been exposed to since he was a child; he never stopped.

Sound doctrine produces spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine makes spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may not be Christians at all.

Testing Godly Living Derived From of The Doctrine:
The final test of a doctrine’s soundness (truthfulness) is its value for godly living; false doctrine leads to ungodly living. Truth is never found in isolation, standing on its own. Truth always has implications in life. Sound doctrine is always meant to lead us to praise God, to worship him, and to live meaningful lives in service to him.

One of the hallmarks of Paul’s theology is that false doctrine is closely related to moral deficiency (Romans 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:3-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:15-16). The apostle Peter, also, made the same connection between false doctrine and moral deficiency (2 Peter 2).

What Is Your Doctrine?
We heard the question all the time, “What religion are you,” or “What religion is he/she”? That is simply the wrong question. I am going to ask those of you reading this, “What is your doctrine?”

What doctrines do you hold dear enough to live by? Your doctrine is not true until you are living it. How much of the world have you had to let go of in order to embrace your doctrine? True doctrine requires a separation from the world. Where does your doctrine derive its authority? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). True doctrine is holy and comes from God. True doctrine is not for your head alone, but finds equal footing in your heart and your hands as well.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God,” says Paul, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture is not to be known in an abstract sense, but intimately. Sound doctrine is to inform not only our minds, but our hearts and hands as well.

Going To Church is Not Studying
Paul’s command to Timothy is blunt, it is weighty, and leaves no wiggle room.

Do all you can to present yourself to God as someone worthy of his approval, as a worker with no need to be ashamed, because he deals straightforwardly with the Word of the Truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

If you wish to rise above the flotsam and jetsam of childish and immature Christianity; if you will cease with fear of being deceived by every wind of doctrine that comes along; if you will stand against false doctrine and decry it as treasonous heresy against the holiness of Almighty God, then you are going to have to search the Scriptures. You are going to have to study those sacred and precious doctrines delivered to us by God own grace.

On the other hand, if you have already been deceived by false teachers serving rotted, poisonous doctrine, then you must first repent. Having repented, you must confess your fault, turn back to God’s wholesome truth, and search the Scriptures.

My work here is done. I leave you in the capable hands of the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. the Spirit of Truth).


Sloppy Pulpit

Sloppy Pulpit

Some time ago, perhaps a decade, I coined the phrase, “Sloppy Pulpit,” in reference to those pastors and teachers who seemed to have a difficult time adhering to the tenets and doctrines of the Bible. These people seem to have a different doctrine week after week, and rarely is that doctrine in harmony with the clear teachings of the Bible. The weak and beggarly doctrines being touted by these “Sloppy Pulpiteers” is what brings me to the keyboard today.

Erwin Lutzer wrote a book entitled,
The Cross In The Shadow Of The Crescent. In this book, Lutzer states that an attempt is being made in our day to make Christianity appeal to unbelievers by speaking of the Gospel as love and not mentioning sin. But without the requirement of repentance, Christians believe themselves to be freed from suffering and hardship. This type of message is very appealing to the general public, because most do not want to go to church and hear about their sinful acts.

Preaching is God’s Strategy

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. —1 Corinthians 1:21

Preaching is the method God has ordained to deliver his Word to sinful humanity and to build his Church. Consequently, preaching is the primary responsibility of every pastor, and the primary need of every congregation. No pastor should ever fail in this responsibility, and every pastor is required to preach, and to preach well. But many pastors are failing in this responsibility, and the Church is becoming weaker and weaker because of those failures. My purpose today is not to provide an exhaustive list of errors that contribute to the disease of “Sloppy Pulpit,” but rather to help people become aware of the growing epidemic.

Not Under The Law

On the one hand, pastors teach that we are not under the Law of Moses, that we in the Church Age are under God’s grace. And that is reenforced with the declaration that Gentiles were never given the Law and are therefore not required to follow it. But on the other hand, Christians are required to pay tithes (the Law of Moses), and to observe the Sabbath (also the Law of Moses). And these two particular hold-overs from the Law of Moses serve very well to keep the intake of dollars high, and to help keep people in church on that all-important Sabbath Day. This is simply bad preaching; “Sloppy Pulpit.” It serves to confuse the hearers and also damage their faith. After all, how can we be free from the law and yet have to abide by it at the same time.

Love, Only Love

It is an indisputable fact that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). As Christians we trust in, cling to, and rely upon that truth. But our God is also:

For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. —Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29

(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. —Deuteronomy 6:15

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. —Deuteronomy 32:4

Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. —1 Samuel 2:3

And God abandons those who will not hear and obey the truth of God’s gospel. —Romans 1:24, 26, 28

To focus solely on God’s love to the utter neglect of his wrath, jealousy, and judgment is to reduce the Almighty to nothing more than a “good ole boy.” It completely disregards that fact that the God of the Bible became a man in order to pay the penalty for man’s sin and rebellion by punishing himself. The wrath and judgment of the God of the Bible are just as perfect as his love, and they are just as ever-present.

Because of an over-emphasis of God’s love, we now have Christians who believe it is wrong to correct people, to rebuke them, to admonish them, or to call them to accountability. Indeed, I have had people tell me flatly that all we need to do is just love them and people will turn around. These are Christian people, people who profess to read the Bible and to love God. These same Christians believe that God will ultimately forgive everyone and let “bygones be bygones.” What utter nonsense! That is false doctrine; the result of “Sloppy Pulpit.” It is the antithesis of the guy on the street corner holding the sign, “TURN OR BURN!” Both extremes fail to embrace the Bible’s true message to sinful humanity from a loving God who has no tolerance for sin (being the one who, himself, paid sin’s penalty for us).

We should never be angered by the sins of unbelievers, they are doing only what they are capable of doing. But those who claim to be true believers and followers of Messiah, when those people enter into a lifestyle and a habitual practice of sin, then we have a duty to be angry with such ungodly

Ephesians 4:26 tells us to “...
be angry and sin not.” We are to show our sore displeasure in the choices they have made and continue to make. This is exactly what God did. This is exactly what Yeshua did. One of the faces of love is confrontation, not condemnation. We have no standing to “condemn” sin, being practitioners of it ourselves. But we have an obligation, a duty, yes, even a responsibility to confront a believer with his or her sin. See the following Scriptures:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. —Galatians 6:1-5

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. —2 Thessalonians 3:14

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. —1 Timothy 5:20

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. —James 5:19-20

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, FORGIVE HIM. —Luke 17:3

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, —Matthew 21:12 (Look it up) —Joshua 7:10-22

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. —Galatians 2:11-13

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. —Matthew 16:4

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. —Acts 17:23

It is selfish, as well as cowardly, to withhold the gospel from unbelievers, or correction from believers under the pretense of “not offending, or not provoking.” We are God’s watchmen (Ezekiel 33:1-20...yes you REALLY need to read it).

Those victims of “Sloppy Pulpit” who have heard only the “love” side of the God of the Bible; who have been taught from those “Sloppy Pulpits” that we have no right to correct or censure a brother or sister should carefully consider the words of the apostle Paul:

Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I charge you, in the name of his appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement—but do all with patience and with care to instruct. The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths. But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you. —2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NJB)

No More Repentance

“Sloppy Pulpit” has produced another popular heresy in that repentance is no longer necessary. If our preaching is going to be effective, if we want that preaching to be applicable to those who hear it, we must preach the cross of Messiah, the blood of Messiah, and repentance. In short, we must preach Yeshua Messiah, and him crucified.

Today, people seek teaching that will satisfy their itching ears and allow them to gratify their carnal desires. They want pastors to deal gently with their evil ways. They want tolerance, and that tolerance is all too often accomplished by simply removing the power from the gospel.

Today’s “Sloppy Pulpits,” all claiming authority in the name of Yeshua, can hardly fail to call to mind the same trouble experienced by Isaiah’s when the people said,

Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us (Isaiah 30:10-11).

When did Yeshua ever allow the people to decide what he would teach them? When did Paul let his audience determine his doctrine? These pastors who are supposed to be purveyors of a spiritual feast based on the glorious and powerful doctrines of the Bible are found to be more like fast food servers. They know the people have itching ears and they are all too happy to scratch those ears to keep the people happy, the chairs filled, and that bank balance in the black.

The victims of “Sloppy Pulpit” are never confronted, never challenged, and absolutely never held accountable. These people are content with a vapid, empty message filled with the latest Christian buzz words giving guidelines on how to endure rather than how to overcome. The sin in their lives is never addressed.

Some pastors may avoid using the word “repent” because it sounds too harsh and “unloving,” too confrontational, or too judgmental. However, a call for repentance is really a gracious, loving act. Repentance is the doorway to God’s grace. Repentance is not just a one-time act at the new birth; it is a way of life for the Christian. “Repent” was a common word in the book of Acts, and it should be in today’s preaching as well.

The Altar Call

Can anything be more shameful and more damaging to the gospel of grace than after having stripped all the teeth from a sermon, to then offer an “altar call” under the conditions of, “Every head bowed, and every eye closed; no one looking around. We do not want to embarrass anyone.”
How despicably contemptible; how faithless and cowardly! Even a cursory examination of the Bible accounts of Yeshua’s earthly ministry will quickly and effortlessly show that never once in his dealing with apostles, disciples, or even the common man, did he petition for “...every head bowed and every eyed closed; no one looking around.” How little faith in the preaching of the gospel the pastor must exhibit who utilizes this shameful practice.

Small wonder that the Church is being filled to capacity with weak and ineffectual “Christians.” They were allowed to sneak into the Church while no one was watching. Small wonder that at the first sign of persecution or the first mention of being intolerant these victims of “Sloppy Pulpit” abandon the Father’s Messiah and take up arms against the gospel of the God of the Bible along with the other humanists. Small wonder that the Church of the Lord Yeshua Messiah is overflowing with effeminate, homosexual men; backbiters, slanderers, gossipers, rebellious children, and haters of the God of the Bible...the pastors do not want to embarrass them.

Not a New problem

This problem of “Sloppy Pulpit” has been around since the inception of the Church. It was an issue dealt with by the apostle Paul throughout his ministry, and the fight continues to this very day. And even to this present time, the words of the great apostle cannot be silenced:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. ­—Romans 5:1-11

Take Heed

In 1 Corinthians chapter 3, Paul warns us to be careful how we build upon the foundation of grace and truth that he has laid down. And in 2 Corinthians 13 Paul exhorts to, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;”

Those of you pastors who have “played to the crowd,” need to repent. You Christians who have been feasting on “ear candy,” need to repent. Those of you who have been ashamed of the unyielding stand of the gospel of God, ashamed of the intolerance of sin of the God of the Bible, ashamed to come out from among the blasphemous, ungodly people of the world, you need to repent.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. —Romans 1:16-17

Take heed...