Summary: False teachers don’t walk around with nametags that say, “Hi, I’m a False Teacher.” We must beware of false beliefs, faulty behavior and fake benefits.
Spotting False Teachers
Rev. Brian Bill
May 16-17, 2015
How many of you like watching infomercials? Any proud owners of the Sham-Wow, the Snuggie or the Perfect Bacon Bowl here today? Earlier this month, I read an article in the Quad-City Times called, “Infomercial Tricks That Can Trash Your Cash Supply.” Here’s part of what it said: “Infomercials that sell shampoos, zit creams and the latest weight loss gadgets can be hard to turn away from…not all of them are misleading but many are…you have to be careful and aware that the $19.95 price touted often will wind up being a lot more.”
The FTC recently fined one company $8 million because they led customers to believe they would be getting two products for $19.95 but actually ended up paying $35.85 when processing and handling fees were added. Other tricks include putting people on subscription and payment plans that make the product seem cheaper than it really is. Somehow it’s easier to swallow four easy payments of $39.95 than to shell out $160 for something you don’t need in the first place.
The main point of the article is that consumers need to beware of false advertising. 2 Peter 2:1-3 warns Christ followers to beware of false teachers. Let’s stand and read together: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”
I find it fascinating these verses don’t contain a single command. Rather, we are called to be cautious and careful because misinformation and outright error is all around us, and even among us. Here’s the sermon in a nutshell: We must beware of false beliefs, faulty behavior and fake benefits.
I came across a statement from John MacArthur which helped me catch the gravity of this passage: “Nothing is more wicked than for someone to claim to speak for God to the salvation of souls when in reality he speaks for Satan and the damnation of souls.”
1. Beware of false beliefs. Look at verse 1: “But there were also false prophets among the people…” The word “but” shows a contrast between true prophets and false prophets. And the phrase “among the people” is a reference to Israel and all the lies that were propagated by false prophets. Jeremiah 23:16: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.’” Isaiah 30:9-10 tells us that God’s people often didn’t want to hear what was true but rather what made them feel good: “Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things…”
Just as there were false prophets in the past, there “will be false teachers among you.” The word “among” means that they are within us. The fourth verse in Jude is quite descriptive: “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle Paul gave a similar warning in Acts 20:29-30: “…savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves…”
I spent some time the last couple weeks watching various preachers on TV and also read various resources they have written. In an effort to help us become more discerning when we come across doctrinal dissonance, I’ll be sharing some actual quotes. I want to be quick to say that not all TV preachers are fomenting falsehood. There are a few, like Charles Stanley, that are outstanding.
Here’s an example of a very frightening statement made by a popular preacher and well-known author: “The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this…that is why you have got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I am telling you. I have got to just trust God that he is putting it into your spirit like he put it into mine.”
False teachers, like this one, “secretly bring in destructive heresies,” meaning that they “smuggle in by the side of” in order to lead others away. Their error is not always readily apparent. The word “heresies” refers to that which is chosen or selected, reminding us that false teachers often speak some truth with dangerous doctrine selectively sprinkled in. They may use the same words we use but give different meaning to them. This is not a small thing as the word “destructive” refers to damnation.