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).


Something To Say?

Something To Say?

The ancient philosopher, Plato stated,

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.

Having been a Bible teacher for nearly four decades, I can readily admit that there is a certain arrogance associated with teaching the Bible. Webster defines arrogance as:
an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.

All teachers, whether secular or religious, share some common beliefs that the material they are teaching:

is being presented to someone who wishes to know the material
is currently unknown or misunderstood by most
has some innate value to the audience

Going by Webster’s definition, it can easily be seen that the teacher believes he or she has material that is currently superior to what is possessed by the audience. To state that another way, there is little to be gained by offering inferior materials to any audience. If you do not believe that the material you are wishing to present is superior in some way to what your audience already possesses, then you should be a student, not a teacher. Thus, the writer/speaker/teacher believes he or she knows something that others do not, or at the very least, has a better understanding of that material. Additionally, the teacher expects the material to be both learned and applied. These thoughts are what bring me to the keyboard today.

Do You Have To Say Something?

You do not have to travel far on the Internet to find some folks who feel they have to say something...anything. The spectrum is a vast ocean of plutonic utterances that may possibly be entertaining, but fall woefully short of being of any real, lasting value to people who partake of those compositions. These types of communications, regardless of the medium in which they are discovered; Internet, Facebook, texting, books, magazine articles, etc., all share a common source of origin; recognition.

Some people want recognition, others need recognition, and still others crave it. Regardless of the degree of recognition sought, those who “have to say something” do so to gain that element of recognition. I am not saying that these are bad people, nor are they necessarily egocentrics. But what is said by them is to boost, or magnify, or bring focus upon themselves. They are not teachers.

Do You Have Something To Say?

For the pendulum to swing the other way, you really need to be able to take yourself our of the equation. If you have something to say, then your material is not going to cause people to focus on you, but rather on the material you are presenting. I will admit that there is no way to completely disassociate yourself from your message, after all, it is your hand or your voice that is doing the communicating. Therefore, in the final analysis, you will be associated with your message, that is inescapable.

But when your audience comes to the end of your message, will they be thinking more about you; what a clever fellow you are, or will they be thinking more about your message? Will the words of your message shine more light on you as the author/speaker, or on the truth(s) that you want people to embrace?

Five Minutes
Before you even begin to write or speak, you should honestly pass judgment on your own knowledge and understanding of your topic. You should carefully consider what you are trying to get across to others. I try to judge myself by the five-minute test. Am I capable of speaking on this topic for five minutes with the world’s leading authority on the subject (whatever that subject may be)? If I can honestly answer, “Yes,” then I may have something worth passing along to others as a benefit to them. If I am struggling to make a meaningful presentation from a plethora of mere words, I take that as a sure sign I need to research or study my topic a little more. At the very least more prayer is definitely required.

How Will It Help
Even passing the five-minute test is no guarantee that what is intended to be offered is going to be helpful. How do you anticipate the material being helpful? Will the material encourage, inspire, educate, train, correct, or admonish those who read it or hear it? Do you expect the material to be as beneficial in a year, or five years, or twenty years?

Offer people something that they can use for a lifetime. If you want people to learn it, then make it worth their while to learn it. Make everything you communicate as timelessly meaningful as possible. While people might like the latest fads for keeping milk fresh longer, or how to get whiter whites, when the topic turns to things that affect people as they really live, the desire for the flashy and innovative is obscured by a need for that which has been proven effective over long periods of time. A verbal or written parade of the latest buzz words is a waste of everyone’s time.

Teach The Entire Crowd
School teachers, college professors, and even some business settings deal with respective audiences of roughly the same genre. But get a group of churchgoers together and the teacher’s job increases dramatically. You only find third graders in a third grade classroom, but there are all ages and all levels of Christianity represented in most church services.

Assuming you truly have something to say, you should be able to reach the entire audience. You must stimulate the thoughts and desires of every reader or listener to be better; from the least to the greatest. For that reason, you must have something worthwhile to say, or it will either never be received, or it will be abandoned all too quickly for something that is worth holding onto.

Practice The 3 T’s

The three T’s are very simple:
Tell them what you are going to teach,
Teach them what you said you would, then
Tell them what you have just taught them.

Do not try to set an ambush for your audience with a blockbuster revelation that completely catches them off guard. Antics like that serve more to generate questions than to minister answers. Let the audience know from the very beginning what your teaching plan is so they can prepare themselves to receive that well prepared lesson/sermon.

Do Not Be Lukewarm

If you come across as lukewarm in your lesson/sermon you will most likely be perceived as someone who “has to say something” rather than someone who “has something to say.” If you are not excited or enthusiastic about what you are teaching, then why should your audience be excited or enthusiastic? Where are they going to get that excitement? Certainly not from you. Why should they bother to learn it?


Whether you are delivering your message to a secular audience, to your home church, or something in the middle, prayer can make all the difference between a good message and a fiery crash and burn. This should be a given for any Christian, but too many try and tough through it on their own without inviting (or expecting) input and direction from the Holy Ghost.


I ended with prayer above so that I could make it the first thing in my concluding remarks. I will invite you to start recognizing that prayer is asking for and expecting a miracle. If you do not need a miracle, then you can do it yourself. If you can do it yourself, then stop being lazy and go do it. But if you cannot do it yourself, then you need outside help, and God is still in the miracle-working business. And if you think for one minute that you can capture the hearts, minds, and imaginations of an auditorium full of people on your own, I want to be there for that event. Pray! Pray fervently! Expect God to work that miracle for you. Only then will you be ready to share the truth and the revelation of your message.

Decide right now never to be just “someone who has to say something.” Decide that you will always present relevant, meaningful, timely material to your audience, knowing that your message/lesson will better the lives of people who take it to heart.

Never forget to tell them what you are going to teach, then go ahead and teach them what you told them you would, and finally tell them what you taught them.

Be excited about your material. I do not mean the sidelines cheerleader sort of excited either. I am talking about the sort of excitement you would have if you had just discovered the cure for cancer. You would be excited about that, I know. You would want others to take your message seriously and apply it to their lives. You know if you discovered the cure for cancer that your material would be superior to all other material, because you have the CURE for cancer, not merely a treatment. That kind of excitement!

We all like listening to and reading people who have something meaningful to say. Be wise.