I recently finished a term as women’s Sunday School teacher and towards the end, we were studying 2 Peter. The topic was “false teachers and their teachings” and I found myself enjoying it immensely. One of the reasons why I was enjoying it so much was simply because of all the reading and research I’ve done the past 2-3 years on the emergent and post-modern church. So before I shut my Sunday School notebook completely and stash it away, I will share what I found with you.
2 Peter 2:1a says “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you . . . ”
Just as there were false prophets or religious imposters among the Old Testament true prophets, Peter is warning the church that there will be false teachers come in among them. False teachers here means “a propagator of erroneous Christian doctrine”.
Some say to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” regarding false doctrine. Is this something we should do?
Never in Scripture do we find that we are to accept erroneous beliefs – just because it comes packaged with a few truths thrown in and the label of “Christian” on it. Instead, we are to flee all appearance of evil.
Jesus Himself warned against the leaven (doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 16:11-12. He did not tell the disciples that it is okay to eat the loaf of bread, and to spit out the leaven when you are finished. It you’re a baker, you know that’s impossible. The leaven has permeated the entire loaf of bread – every single slice, every single bite.
Instead, we find multiple warnings in the New Testament against false teachers:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew 7:15
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I John 4:1
“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4
What should our response be to false teachers and their teachings?
- First – View With Caution – When Jesus cautioned his followers about false teachers in Matthew 7:15-16, He used the word “beware”. This word in the Greek means “to hold the mind or view with caution”. I believe that should be our first response to any teacher or teaching that raises a red flag with what we know to be Biblical.
- Second – Be a Berean – Paul and Silas were sent unto Berea where the people received the word gladly. But they didn’t stop there. In Acts 17:11, it says “they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” If these people felt it needful to check even the doctrines of Paul and Silas against God’s inspired Word, how much more so do you think they checked the doctrines of false teachers? It is to our eternal detriment if we prove ourselves gullible enough to accept every doctrine that comes from the “Christian” community. Learn to love and study the Word of God as if your soul depended on it – for it truly does!
- Finally – Flee These Teachers – Once we have viewed them with caution, taken their doctrines to the Bible for a validity check and have proven them to be false teachers, I believe our last move should be taken from I Timothy 6:3-5.
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
We are not commanded to “eat the meat and spit out the bones”, but to completely and totally remove ourselves from these teachers and their teachings.
What are some of the signs of false teachers and how can we know them?
- By Their Fruits – Jesus Himself gave us a very good answer to this question. Matthew 7:16 says “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” But we must remember one of the necessary ingredients to determine fruits is this: time. It takes time for a tree to develop, put forth blossoms and finally show mature fruit. You won’t always know the moment a new leader or teacher comes into focus whether or not they pass the validity check of the Scriptures. Give them time and their fruits will reveal them.
- Coming Among Us – A false teacher or prophet is one who is trying to replace something valid with something that is false. They are replacing truth with lies. But they are sometimes incredibly hard to spot. For 2 Peter 2:1 says this about them: “Who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.” Privily here means “alongside”. They will look Christian, talk Christian and have the label of “Christian” on everything they do.
- Denying The Lord – 2 Peter 2:1 says these false teachers will even deny the Lord that bought them. This seems hard for us to think of any teacher doing. But there is a belief becoming more prominent among Christians that is fueled by false teachers – it is the belief of Christian universalism. This belief says that all humans will ultimately be saved, whether or not they call on Jesus as Savior and Lord out of a repentant heart. Universalism denies that Jesus is the only way to the Father.
- Many Shall Follow Them – 2 Peter 2:1 says “And many shall follow their pernicious ways . . . “ Several years ago, one of our ministers gave a sermon and made a comment that I could not forget. He said “The true Gospel will never be popular with the masses.” So true. Jesus told us to not look for the road that is well worn or to follow what the crowds are doing. Instead He says “. . . strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt. 7:14 Just because 90% of Christians are reading that book or following that teacher doesn’t make it right, sound or Biblical. In fact, it is probably the opposite.
- Do They Obey Him? “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” I John 2:3-4 Jesus told us in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who calls him Lord will enter into heaven – but those who also do the will of His Father. Obedience to the Scriptures is another good test of a false teacher.
This list is by no means complete, but I would encourage you to study 2 Peter 2, I John and Jude for further in-depth study on false teachers and doctrine.
They say that they train a bank teller to detect counterfeit money not by teaching them what each type of counterfeit bill looks like and feels like – but by thoroughly training them over and over on what real money is like. They know the counterfeit only because they have been completely trained in the real and true.
This is the same for us today. You can study all kinds of different doctrines, but if you don’t first know what the real Truth is – you will never be able to detect the lies. Know God’s Word inside and out – this has been such a challenge to me.
Learn to love and study the Word of God as if your soul depended on it – for it truly does!