This is the question that has lingered in my mind for the past weeks. Believe you me, false teachings and false teachers break my heart and stir agony and anger deep within my soul. I wish I had all the powers to stop them but I can’t. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly declares that we will always have them.
On this blog, I have for a number of times exposed and rebuked false teachings and teachers. I don’t do this because I love or enjoy it as some have mistakenly thought. Honestly, I do it with agony in my soul. Nevertheless, I still have to do it as the goal of this blog is to “Give a reason for our (Christian) Faith and contend for it to the glory of God.”
Now back to the question of false teachings and false teachers. Why do they exist? I have searched the Scriptures to find answers. But before we tackle the question, it is important to note that the Bible clearly states that we will always have false teachers and false teachings. Christ reminds us: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:15, 16).
Apostle Peter also says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1). So make no mistake about it, false teachers and teachings will be part of this life until Christ comes back.
Again, back to our question: Why do we have false teachings and false teachers? First, we need to note that some false teachers and teachings are out there due to ignorance. The wise of the old once noted that ‘ignorance is bliss.’ It is true! Some false teachers out of ignorance enjoy teaching false doctrines. They are not aware that they are in the wrong.
An example of Apollos comes to my mind right now. Apollos was a faithful servant of God and the Bible describes him as “a learned man, with thorough knowledge of Scriptures…he taught about Jesus accurately, although he knew only of the baptism of John” (Acts 18:25, 25). Apollos ignorantly taught about John’s baptism instead of baptism in Christ. Perhaps, his error was not much deadly but still he was in the wrong and acted in ignorance. It took Aquila and his wife Priscilla to help Apollos to teach the truth more accurately (Acts 18:26).
Some of us have been there too. I remember early in my Christian life strongly refuting the biblical teaching that for one to be saved, it means that God unconditionally chose them to be saved before the foundations of the earth were laid (Ephesians 2:4-6). I vividly recall preparing Bible studies to refute this teaching. But one day while in my first year at a Bible college, God opened my eyes as I was in class studying Romans 9. Oh, what a day! For the first time in my Christian life, my eyes were opened to this wonderful truth and silently in my heart I prayed: “Father, forgive me. I was wrong. I now believe it. There is no one who can choose you unless you choose them.”
Now, you ask me. Was I sincere when I refuted the doctrine of election? Yes I was! But were I Biblically right? No! I acted out of ignorance but at an appointed time God led me to the truth. So indeed, there are some who spread false teachings out of ignorance. As the body of Christ we need to be on our knees praying that God will open their eyes to the truth and let’s take a step further like Aquila and Priscilla to reach out to them in love and graciously show them the truth as given to us in God’s holy and inerrant word, the Bible.
Secondly, let’s face it, false teachings are usually appealing. Now, due to our fallen nature we love those things that make us feel better. We, strongly, hate those things that disturb us in our comfort zone. Some false teachers have risen out of the desire to please men rather than God and in the process they gain materially. Two important issues motivate this type of false teachers namely the desire to please men and the desire to gain materially.
There is a passage that breaks my heart and provokes tears in my eyes, John 12:37-43. In the passage we read that some Jews believed in Jesus as the Savior but they could not openly confess this because they feared angering their religious leaders. The Bible highlights this sad truth about these Jews: “they loved the praise from men more than praise from God” (43). The Jews opted to please fellow men rather than God. Believe you me, there are some false teachers who are motivated by the desire to please men rather than God. They know the truth but they intentionally go around it to please men.
Why do they do this? There might be many reasons but one of them is to gain materially (Jude 11). If these teachers are to be bold one day and decide to teach nothing but the truth, they know that they will not please many. The number of their followers will drastically shrink and they might not be able to live a more luxurious and extravagant life as they do now since their financial base will also shrink. So, they opt to please people at the expense of God’s truth. Sad, isn’t it?
Thirdly, there are those who have deliberately chosen to be agents of Satan to advance false teachings. Of course, all false teachings come from the evil one but as we have noted above some false teachers have been blinded by ignorance and the pleasures of this life. But this third group has willfully offered themselves to be agents of the evil one. They teach doctrines of demons to harm and destroy the Body of Christ. They forget as Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) put it in that famous hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, that “Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that church prevail.”
Apostle Paul describes this group better in 1 Timothy 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Notice that these people have deliberately ‘abandoned and followed things taught by demons.’ What do they gain from that? The Bible has not specified but this the most dangerous type of false teachers.
They are like Judas Iscariot who heard the truth of Christ daily but later intentionally decided to rebel against his Master and transferred himself from the Lordship of Christ to the lordship of Satan. The Bible advises us to have nothing to do with this type of false teachers for their condemnation was already written long ago (Jude 4; 2 Peter 2:3). It’s hard, isn’t it?
Well, these are the thoughts that have entered my mind as I have been studying Scripture and reflecting on the question of false teachers and teachings. However, the Bible has a word for all those who love Christ and are concerned with false teachers and teachings:
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 20-25).