Protecting Yourself Against False Teachers

Although I will rarely identity false teachers by name anymore, I believe in the importance of training my readers to guard against such people. Every New Testament book except for Philemon deals at some level with the subject, and many Old Testament books address the problem. From that we can surmise God’s deep concern that His people not turn aside to deception.

Most of us believe that Christ’s return, and thus the end of this world, is imminent. Since I’m not as well-schooled on eschatology as I ought to be, I’ll refrain from making dogmatic remarks based on the evening news. But Scripture indeed draws a connection between the last days and the increased proliferation of false teaching. Notice, for instance, Paul’s warning to Timothy:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. ~~1 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB95)

While this passage highlights the false teaching of asceticism specifically, Paul’s warning extends to other forms of doctrinal error. Sisters, we live in a world that celebrates anything and everything that denies, contradicts or distorts Christianity, and it’s imperative that we understand the situation. We can’t blissfully pretend that deviations from the truth are harmless or inconsequential. Rather, we must take responsibility to fight against the lies of Satan that would corrupt our faith and undermine our devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians on this very subject, making it abundantly clear that they (and by extension, all Christians) would have to battle ideas, philosophies and teachings that oppose the Word of God.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. ~~2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NASB95)

God has equipped Christians to resist false teachers and the poison of their doctrine. But that equipping doesn’t require endless hours surfing the Internet for information every time a new celebrity teacher appears. Nor do we need to write frantic emails to Michelle Lesley, expecting her to have up-to-date knowledge on whatever celebrity teacher catches our attention.

The Bible offers the way to use the weapons that enable us to detect false teaching and destroy its influence over us. Again, let me take you to counsel Paul gave to Timothy:

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:13-17 (NASB95)

To defend against false teaching, we need to constantly return to Scripture, evaluating teachers (and bloggers like me) through its lens. When you hear or read a teaching that sounds different, go back and read any verses they’ve used in context. Do some cross-referencing to see how those verses fit with other portions of Scripture. As a final step, consult a few commentaries. Lean hard on God’s Word, praying that the Holy Spirit will use it to give you discernment.

False teachers are lurking, even in the best of churches. Praise God that He has blessed us with His Word so that we can defend ourselves.

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