The Five Signs of a False Teacher
In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24 Jesus speaks of false prophets and teachers who will rise up and deceive many by their prophetic words and teachings. I was thinking about this the other night as finishing up my study of Matthew’s record of Jesus’ life and ministry. How true this warning is for today as the internet and social media allows many to spread their messages to all who will listen. It also made me aware of how we need to be so discerning as the false can sound so much like the true.
As I then switched over the read Galatians I noticed Paul was fighting the religious spirit of false teachers and false prophets. The Words of Jesus came true and were seriously accurate right away in the early Church. And are so true even today. In Galatians we find five things we need to note and know about false teachers.
Galatians 5:7-12 NET “You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from the one who calls you! A little yeast makes the whole batch of dough rise! I am confident in the Lord that you will accept no other view. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Now, brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. I wish those agitators would go so far as to castrate themselves!”
1> They contradict the truth – Galatians 5:7
False teachers plagued the Church in Paul’s day, and they continue to multiply as we move towards the end times.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.”
2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves.”
In order to protect ourselves and each other from error, we must know the truth and be able to thus discern falsehood. There is no gift of discernment – there is a gift of the discerning of spirits. But, to discern truth and error we need to be well rooted and grounded in God’s Word, the Bible. This means we need to be reading it regularly and studying it so as to show ourselves approved as workman of the Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
2> They are contrary to God – Galatians 5:8
The Galatians were not called by God to legalism and the law. False teachers used the Old Testament in their attempt to undermine Paul’s teachings regarding being free from the Law. Every cultist and false teacher and prophet tries to use the Bible to support his or her heresy.
3> They contaminate the Church – Galatians 5:9
Paul says that when false doctrine enters a church, it will begin permeating every area of the fellowship until it takes control of the entire church body. This has been the experience of every church, Bible collage, and seminary that has ultimately strayed from the truth of God’s Word.
4> Their condemnation is certain – Galatians 5:10
After expressing his confidence that the Galatians will ultimately choose the right path, Paul promises that those who have troubled them will face the judgment of God.
2 Peter 2:2-3, 9 “And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep … if so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials, and to reserve the unrighteous for punishment at the day of judgment…”
5> They criticize teachers of truth – Galatians 5:11
John R.W. Stott wrote in The Message of Galatians, “The gospel is grievously offensive to the pride of men. It tells them that they are … under the wrath and condemnation of God, that they can do nothing to save themselves or secure their salvation, and that only through Christ crucified can they be saved. If we preach this gospel we shall arouse ridicule and opposition.”
Keep this list close. As we approach the coming of Christ and the end of the age, we will need it.