By Elizabeth Prata
Genesis 3. Ohhh, Genesis 3. We all know that was the Fall of man at the prompting of satan-serpent. Satan spoke, Eve listened, Adam joined, and here we are.
This century is full of rampant false teachers, false prophets, false teaching, and heterodox doctrine. If you picture the church as a boy’s room and he knocks over his ant farm, ants crawling everywhere and hard to catch them all, you have the idea.
The Bible gives us much information that these days would come. (2 Timothy 3:1-5). It’s OK, God prepared us ahead. We are not unaware of satan’s schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11). Except, some people are unaware of his schemes. It’s up to us to help those who are weaker, unaware, or in danger. (1 Thessalonians 5:14, Jude 1:23). So pastors, teachers, people with the gift of discernment, speak out.
I recently wrote about Beth Moore, posing the question “Is Beth Moore possessed?” I personally believe she is. Others don’t. Either way, most of the people in my sphere know she is a false teacher, doing damage. My question roused a great many people who shared their opinions on social media. The week taught me two things: first, that the state of discourse is deplorable among professing Christians. Many of those people should be embarrassed at their publicly hateful and unchristian rejoinders. I wrote about the state of discourse here.
Secondly, it demonstrated the depth of the need to continue exhorting against false teachers. We need to keep promoting the value and importance of discernment, and to continue to help those who are under deception. Several comments I received that were frequently repeated need addressing. They were: Beth Moore (or whoever) cannot be a false teacher because she hasn’t denied Jesus (2 Peter 2:1, Jude 1:4). Beth Moore (or whoever) can’t be false because she talks about Jesus so much.
Genesis 3 opens with this statement:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1). God wanted us to know that this is the first thing to know about satan. The word crafty is also translated cunning or subtle.
It would not be subtle for a false teacher to go around saying “I deny Christ. Let me teach you the Bible”. No, satan’s more subtle than that.
See the scene in the garden. Satan first cast uncertainty on what Eve knew by asking it in the form of a question, forcing her to defend God while simultaneously planting a seed of doubt. He also phrased it in a sincere attitude, as most false teachers do. They do not care about you, they only care about money. But satan was crafty and came across as friendly. “Hath God said?” …
Secondly, satan mixed truths, half-truths, and outright lies in his conversation. So do false teachers.
‘You will not surely die‘ is a flat out lie. Adam and Eve died physically eventually but they died spiritually on the spot.
Your eyes will be opened: this is truth. He just omitted the consequences. But do we really need something extra to open our eyes? False teachers often add to the Bible by promising secret knowledge, a perfect method, an experience. The Spirit’s illuminating ministry already opened our eyes. Do we want our eyes opened, or isn’t the Bible enough? Eve’s eyes were already opened, having a perfect one-on-one relationship with perfect God and with her perfect husband.
You will know good and evil is also a total truth. But do we want to know evil? Only satan is subtle enough to suggest that knowing evil is a good thing, that it’s something that you should want.
You will be like God is a lie. Only God is like God. There is none like Him. (Isaiah 46:9).
You notice that after encountering satan in the serpent, Eve’s perspective shifted. Suddenly she wanted to know evil. (!) She wanted the fruit for food (even though hunger was alien to her). She wanted to be wise, even though she lacked for no knowledge. Eve lacked nothing. But after speaking with the serpent, she suddenly had sensations she’d never had before; hunger, desire, yearning, jealousy. Satan incites us to desire things we never knew we wanted. He draws us away from contentment.
That is what false teachers do. A good and true teacher of the Word leaves you feeling full, knowing Jesus more, loving Him better, understanding sin more deeply. A false teacher leaves you hungry, yearning, and discontent.
We don’t assess a false teacher solely on how we feel, it’s never appropriate to do that even for good reasons. The point here is that encountering satan in the form of His false teachers will shift your perspective, move you from the seat of contentment to one of discontent, and incite yearning, desire for fleshly lusts, and other spiritually damaging things that all take the focus away from God.
Eve suddenly saw the fruit was good, not God. She saw evil was desirable to know about, not God. She saw the tree was a delight to the eyes, not God. In all those subtle ways, satan (and his false teachers) deny Jesus. Here is Barnes’ Notes on 2 Peter 2:1, when false teachers deny the Lord:
And here is Barnes’ notes on Jude 1:4, denying the Lord,
Jesus is too precious to deny, either flatly as atheists and pagans do, or functionally, by teaching or accepting teaching that offers a different Jesus. A substituted Jesus is no Jesus at all. The word of God is sure, infallible, inerrant, and the only truth we can cling to with security, to do good work in His name. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)