3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
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. …(2 Peter 2)
9 Whoever transgresses[d] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. ( 2 John 1:9-11)
11. By wishing a false brother or teacher “God (or ‘good’) speed,” you imply that he is capable as such of good speed and joy (the literal meaning of the Greek), and that you wish him it while opposing Christ; so you identify yourself with “his evil deeds.” The Greek of “partaker” is “having communion with.” We cannot have communion with saints and with Antichrist at the same time. Here we see John’s naturally fiery zeal directed to a right end. Polycarp, the disciple of John, told contemporaries of Irenæus, who narrates the story on their authority, that on one occasion when John was about to bathe, and heard that Cerinthus, the heretic, was within, he retired with abhorrence, exclaiming, Surely the house will fall in ruins since the enemy of the truth is there. (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary)
Is there anyone who has ever been deceived by a false teacher or abused by a false Christian who is not convinced that deception and abuse go hand in hand?
Scriptures make it very clear that false teachers are not just those who have simply misread scripture or are well-intentioned but wrong. I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where either Jesus or the apostles thought about false teachers in this manner. I don’t see Peter, Paul or John excusing the teaching or the teachers because of ignorance or immaturity. There were those in Scripture like Peter and Apollos who were ignorant or misled but who were also able to be reasoned with by more mature Christians and who changed their teaching as a result of an appeal. There was no doubt that these men were brothers because of their love and humility. But I fail to find anywhere that genuine brothers and sisters in Christ were also teachers of false doctrines. It seems that Scripture makes it clear that if you teach a false doctrine, you are also a person of unsound character and are in fact wicked, cursed and to be shunned. In fact, false teachers are cursed by Paul in Galatians 1 and cursed by Peter in the second chapter of his second letter. John says don’t even greet them, Paul tells Timothy to turn away from them. Teaching false doctrine and being deceptive, abusive and leading others astray go hand in glove, make no mistake about it.
I don’t believe that we are to show any leniency to those who prove both by their inability to be reasoned with and their false teaching that they are reprobates. They may present themselves as very charming reprobates, but God does not look at the outward appearance but upon their hearts. The hearts of false teachers are rebellious, unable to love the brethren or God and while they may boast of their love for others and their good deeds before men, Christ will say to them ‘depart from me’. God has no part with false teachers and we are encouraged by the writers of the New Testament to do likewise. It seems unkind and almost wrong to do this. It is undoubtedly hard to do this. Any genuine believer has compassion and concern for those who are headed to hell, but false teachers it seems fall into a separate category. They are evil, we are to turn away from them. How is this possible, when so many of them seem simply to be just making an error in judgement. Can’t we just reason with them and help them to see their mistake?
I would encourage you to do this very thing. You can’t know immediately what kind of character a person has simply by hearing their preaching, or by knowing who they follow or endorse. There can be brothers and sisters in Christ who follow false teachers without realising the teachings are false simply through immaturity. Go to those ones, reason with them, contend for the faith, point out the error, plead and encourage, and if you have won your brother, their souls are saved. If on the other hand, you are ignored, mocked, verbally abused or shunned because you have tried to help them see their error, you will know immediately of what type these Christians are. They have not just become deceived, but they have ‘drunk the koolaide’. This term is a reference to the Jonestown massacre in the People’s Temple Agricultural Project commune in Guyana. It is called Jonestown after the cult leader Jim Jones who had gone from teaching the Word in California to a perverted form of “Apostolic Socialism” in Africa and was using drugs and spreading paranoia and hate in his cult group caused his people to take poison.
Over 900 Americans, who had followed Jones to Africa died in this massacre and it is rumoured that the poison was placed in koolaide so that the people, a third of whom were minors, would drink it. It is not the only and won’t be the last traumatic final act of madmen who begin by preaching scripture, lurch into false teaching and end up mass murderers. Not every false teacher is a murderer but I can think of many who are even now lauded as fine theologians. John Calvin murdered believers who refused to accept his teachings. If he had done something like that today he would be in jail or worse. Yet, because these teachers are historical figures Christians ignore their characters and their obvious lack of love for the brethren who don’t agree with them or try and reason with them to see the error of their ways, they are treated as great men. Obviously Jim Jones is not a great man, but he did not begin a denomination. It is amazing how many people will follow an obvious lunatic or abuser. Look at the many who follow L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings of Scientology. All you have to do is read their histories to see what kind of people they were, moreover, the types of circles they moved in. Read this excerpt of another article which describes Hubbard’s known associates and you will see what I mean.
But not every false teacher or false Christian keeps such company. Not everyone appears to be evil or insane or leads others to their physical deaths. Satan can appear as an angel of light and false teachers are known for their ability to deceive and ‘bewitch’. Even the apostle Paul was concerned about the believers in Galatia who had obviously been led astray by a false teacher.
In all my readings of the New Testament, especially since we left the cult, I have seen that just about every author, including Jesus, warns believers not to be deceived and to watch out for false teachers. Satan was the first false teacher, in the garden of Eden. His words to Eve were “Has God really said?”. This is the first and foremost rule of false teaching. Create doubt in the Word of God, even if at first it is a small doubt (in the authenticity of the translation perhaps), and then build on that doubt with your own version of the truth. You will find false teachers will always start out with the truth, but then they either add to, take away from, or outright change the words of the Bible, or the meaning of those words. Deceivers will always involve themselves in a ‘bait and switch’. They will make you think they are Christians, and preaching the gospel, and then they will have different meanings for the words you take for granted. Even the term ‘gospel’ means different things to different Christians.
This alone makes the false teacher an abuser of the brethren. You cannot love the body of Christ and be loose with the word of God. If you understand the power of the Word, and for this you must have experienced it for yourself, then you will not wish any to be deprived of the experience or understanding of it. A true believer must be transformed, there has to be a testimony of the Cross of Jesus Christ and its work in their lives. Then when they know the power of the gospel, they will not want to ever teach or preach another way. This is the essence of becoming a born-again believer. You know who your saviour is, and you know because ‘the Bible told me so’. You will know the Bible told you because somebody else explained it to you. A true teacher will preach the Word of God, a false teacher will teach something else. This something else will not have the power of the Word to change lives, and they will only look different, they will not actually be different.
Thus any false teaching leads believers and unbelievers astray, hence the warnings. If you are leading believers astray you are abusing your position as teacher, which means you are also abusing those you are teaching. It doesn’t have to be overt or physical abuse, but look how many times those who have started with spiritual abuse ended up caught in adultery or other sins.
We are to be on the lookout for false teachers. Unfortuntaely, most of the church is asleep.
We need to wake up.
Jesus’ return is immanent.
Get right with God, start reading scripture on a daily basis, and be fed with the Word.