A reader asked this question the other day, “Do you think, they believe they are doing what God is calling them to do?” In other words, do they know they’re false or do they sincerely believe that they are in the right?
The answer is yes, no, and we can’t know. Let me explain.
The false teachers and events draw many thousands of people. I was astounded in 2011, when attending a Beth Moore Living Proof Weekend event, 20,000 women filled the stadium. The pillars shook with thunderous applause when she walked out on stage. Yet the teaching was completely ‘Me-centered’. We didn’t learn about God when Moore ‘taught’ from Deuteronomy, we learned about Beth Moore.
False Teachers (as are politicians) are selling something. Will you buy?
It was a startling moment when at the October 2019 Truth Matters Conference, in reply to interviewer Todd Friel’s query to answer in one or two words to the name Beth Moore, John MacArthur forthrightly said “go home”. Even more startling is when he likened her and her ilk to hucksters selling jewelry on TV. (video here). It was true and thus it was a relief to hear.
False teachers are selling something. They have to. The holy Spirit isn’t in or behind their words propelling them into hearts and minds, so in order to get their message across, false teachers have to resort to sales language. Sales language appeals to the flesh. Continue reading “What to listen for in a (false) teacher”→
These past couple of weeks have been rough in our corner of the church. Rachel Held Evans’ passing caused so much grief for her followers and her detractors alike. The display of hatred and bitterness of her followers came after, toward anyone daring to speak a word against their prophetess (their words). It was hard to watch.
Then there was Beth Moore’s craven yet politically manipulative comment that she is preaching on Sunday at a church for Mother’s day and followers of THAT false prophetess came out of the woodwork to proclaim their glee in doing the same, even at Southern Baptist Convention churches, whose statement of faith had traditionally rejected this kind of activity.
Then there was Owen Strachan’s piece biblically outlining why a woman preaching the sermon in church is forbidden by God, and Moore’s self-serving rebuttal to it, her rising anger displayed wantonly for all to see, along of course, with her many followers yapping at Stachan’s heels for his daring to speak against their prophetess.
I’ve only mentioned two women but their combined following just on Twitter alone topped one million people. And their blogs, events, book sales have much greater reach than that, sadly. A huge segment of the western Christian world have been impacted in some way by just those two teachers.
So, it’s been turbulent on social media this week. It reminded me of the Riot at Ephesus where the idol Artemis was enshrined in one of the ancient world’s largest temples, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in fact. Paul’s Gospel preaching started to have an impact, and the merchandise sales began to decline. A silversmith named Demetrius made silver shrines of Artemis and brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He claimed that Paul was “leading the people astray”.
The Riot in Ephesus Acts 19:23-27
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
Notice that Demetrius twice mentioned his business and twice mentioned the goddess Artemis. But notice the order. He first was concerned about his business, both times. Then he mentioned the goddess and worship.
In any case, the people were gullible and became, as the verse says, “furious.” The Greek word for this fury is ‘thumos’. Strong’s concordance explains:
2372 thymós (from thyō, “rush along, getting heated up, breathing violently,” – properly, passion-driven behavior, i.e. actions emerging out of strong impulses (intense emotion). When thymós (“expressed passion”) is used of people it indicates rage, personal venting of anger.
That rage, that passionate personal wrath, is what we saw from RHE followers, from Beth Moore followers, and Beth Moore herself.
At Ephesus, the people filled the arena and shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
That is stunning. The theater there could hold up to 25,000 spectators. You know how loud it gets when just the school gymnasium at school is filled for a pep rally with a few hundred students, and everyone is stomping on the bleachers. Imagine thousands upon thousands of people creating a ruckus and shouting in unholy fury. It’s also stunning that they did it for two hours. That kind of shouting and rage is difficult to maintain at those intense levels. It seems that satanically inspired fury can be maintained for that length of time with no problem.
I liken the ruckus of social media over Rachel Held Evans’ death and Beth Moore’s tweet as similar to the riot at Ephesus; intense, rage filled, sustained, with the followers of those false teachers claiming that those trying to bring the truth were leading them astray. But at the root of it is money. It always is.
The lesson here in looking to that passage of scripture in Acts is that we should never doubt the intense love people have for their idols and the lengths to which they will go to protect and defend them. Never underestimate the power that greed has over those who teach falsely, for their motivation is money. (2 Peter 2:3). Don’t miscalculate the wrath that those in the cottage industries surrounding the idol and financially benefiting from the idol will go to preserve their income. Always remember that those who follow false teachers, false gods, and idols will say that anyone bringing the truth is actually lying and leading the people astray.
It’s been an upsetting week, many people doing and saying unpalatable things. I don’t know the Lord’s reason for ordaining RHE’s number of days to end at 13,505 or why He is allowing Beth Moore to continue polluting the church and blaspheming His name into her 60th year. His will be done. The good news is that we have glory to look forward to. We will sing and worship in truth and unity, with not one blot, not one jot, not one tittle of falsity anywhere. No false teachers will skulk in any corner, no false prophetess will lead anyone astray, and no merchandising of the people will ever happen. Glory will be sparkling pure, clean, and wholesome.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:1-7)
I’m helping a new believer. She is hungry for the word and wide eyed with wonder at everything being new and shiny. She started watching TV Preachers and we in our local body (I) have the sad job to let her know that not all that glitters in the Christian world is gold. We have to protect the lambs.
I remember the days after my conversion. I thought I was safe and that everything would now and forever be OK. The change in my worldview was immediate, it literally was like scales fell off my eyes. In eternity, it is true that everything will be OK, but there will be a lot of work, struggle, vigilance and not-OK stuff happening until I get there. The church is less safe than I thought and definitely takes vigilance to remain on the upward path of sanctification. Satan and the flesh and the world wants to knock us off our pins. It is our job to help new believers learn how to avoid these traps and pitfalls false teachers lay for us.
One main way satan operates is seeding the church with false teachers. Did you know that every New Testament Book except Philemon has strong warnings about being alert for false teachers and false doctrine? Some books of the NT are entirely devoted to the topic! (Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude.)
Since it’s a big topic in the Bible, it should be a big topic for us. We shouldn’t focus on false teaching all the time, after all, the best way to spot a counterfeit is to learn the real thing. Thus, our study is God’s word, not false teachings. However, we do need to hone our discernment. (Hebrews 5:14).
Here are some good essays I’ve read lately that help us to identify false teachers.
The following are 10 signs that the Christian authors you’re following may be subtly teaching unbiblical ideas. I say “subtly” because I think most people would spot a problem immediately if a Christian said they didn’t believe in the Trinity. But it’s just as important to identify when less obvious warning signs—like the following—are present.
Given this obligation, it becomes all the more imperative to be able to identify false teachers when they emerge. Sometimes false teaching originates from outside of the church. Sometimes such teaching originates from within. The New Testament teaches that a more rigorous response is required when it arises within. Thus faithful pastors must learn how to identify and deal with false teachers. But how do we do that?
In my last post, we looked at six characteristics that help us to identify false teachers. In this post, we will consider what pastors and congregations are supposed to do in response to such persons who emerge in their midst.
The articles below are evidentiary findings on today’s most popular “divangelistas” (as well as a few male teachers and ministries in general). Please use them as teaching tools in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 to help others understand the false doctrine these people are proclaiming, keeping in mind that the people who follow them most likely simply don’t know they’re following false teachers.
It takes careful discernment to see that the light is really darkness. Paul taught Timothy how to diagnose satanic darkness masquerading as divine light. Here’s how he described the key symptoms that identify those infected with the spiritual disease of false teaching:
In the same way Peter says, “There will be false teachers among you.” Notice the words “among you.” Peter is writing to the church and says, “There will be false prophets among you.” So he is not talking about New Age people on television. He is talking about people in the local church, members of a local congregation.
Luke Wayne at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. I like this one because he mentions the behavior of a false teacher. It’s not only about doctrine. Examine the teacher’s doctrine AND life. (1 Timothy 4:16).
We can identify a false teacher or a false prophet by examining first and foremost their teaching and secondly their behavior in light of Scripture. If what they are teaching is not consistent with what the Holy Spirit has plainly revealed in Scripture, they are a false teacher and are to be ignored, even if they live extraordinary lives, even if they appear to have supernatural insight, or even if they seem to work great miracles.
We are one body. Help the new believers, our vulnerable lambs, stay in the flock, growing and maturing in healthy ways.
Yesterday I wrote about the wind, meaning, the Spirit, blowing where it will. I wrote of how we can’t see the wind at the time but we can see its effects. One of the effects of the wind’s (Spirit’s) effect is fruit. The changed heart will be producing good fruit. A bad heart produces only bad fruit. The unsaved who profess but do not possess Christ will produce bad fruit at some point. False teachers will produce bad fruit also.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 NASB)
Please notice the certainty in the lesson. Jesus said ‘You WILL know them’. Not that it will be uncertain, or foggy, or maybe, or perhaps. But you WILL.
Not all fruit is produced quickly. Different fruit trees bear fruit at different lengths of time. After planting, fig trees bear figs after 1-2 years. Apple trees take 3-5 years to produce fruit. Pear trees take about 4-6 years. The point is, not all false teachers will quickly show their true nature, but at some point, no matter how long it takes, they will produce the bad fruit Jesus spoke of. And then you will know them.
They wear sheep’s clothing. This means that outwardly false teachers will appear on the surface to be like the true sheep. Barnes’ Notes explains here,
Who come in sheep’s clothing – The sheep is an emblem of innocence, sincerity, and harmlessness. To come in sheep’s clothing is to assume the appearance of sanctity and innocence, when the heart is evil.
Ravening wolves – Rapacious; voraciously devouring; hungry even to rage. Applied to the false teachers, it means that they assumed the appearance of holiness in order that they might the more readily get the property of the people. They were full of extortion and excess. See Matthew 23:25.
I remember watching an art interpretation show some years back. I like Renaissance art and this episode featured Caravaggio and his famous painting of the Bacchus. I have seen the actual painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Here it is.
I wish I could go back and really appreciate the art now that my spiritual eyes have been opened. I remember standing in front of it at the Uffizi for a short moment, and saying to myself, “Pretty! I like fruit.” And then moving on. Outwardly the painting looked good.
Let’s not move on. Let’s look at this scene for a moment.
Bacchus is a god of wine and ecstasy. Starting at the top, Bacchus’ cheeks. His cheeks are ruddy, but not a healthy ruddy like David, from being out in the air and working hard. (1 Samuel 16:12). No, Bacchus’ cheeks are red from dissipation, from drunkenness and licentiousness and debauchery and overindulgence. His eyes are glazed and drowsy. He is half dressed, exposing skin, indicating sensuousness, but the mattress he is laying on is dirty. He is offering the viewer wine, a beverage that will make one take leave of senses. But his near nakedness is also indicating he is offering something more. His fingernails are dirty.
Now the fruit. Looking hard at the fruit, you notice that despite the lushness and the voluminous quantity, the fruit is overripe. It’s rotting. It’s bad. The apple has a worm. The pomegranate has burst open. The nectarine is rotten.
If you want an technical description of this bowl of disease, here it is
Exact in detail they include precise representations of disease symptoms, insect damage, and various abiotic defects. … The fruits include black, red, and white clusters of grapes; a bursting pomegranate; figs; a large green pear; three apples—one greenish and one red with a codling moth (Carpocapsa pomonella) entrance hole, a small, golden russet crab with two areas of rot, likely a form of Botrysphaeria; and a half-rotten quince. The basket contains two fig leaves both with a dorsal (abaxial) view and a grape leaf yellowing at the edge suggestive of potassium deficiency. The head of Bacchus is crowned with clusters of black and white grapes and senescing leaves, one of which is turning red, probably an indication of crown gall, induced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Source: Purdue Department of Landscape and Horticulture
Eww. The fruit of debauchery is rotten. The fruit is BAD. False teachers only offer bad fruit.
Do you want to eat the bad fruit? Bite into an apple with a moth worm inside? Consume sickly peaches dripping with its own rotted pus?
People often try to be charitable with false teachers. I understand wanting to be charitable, but there is a time and a place for charity. False teachers are evil. They are against Jesus. They are against you. They are against me.
Jesus said that there is good fruit and bad fruit. He didn’t say that there was fence fruit or sort of OK fruit or any fruit in the middle. The fruit teachers offer is either one or the other.
I learned my lesson with the art. Art takes a while to look at, examine, notice, and ponder. It’s the same with what teachers teach us. Good teachers and bad teachers offer us things. It takes time to look at, examine, notice, and ponder what they are offering. Once we discern the bad from the good, we are told to hold on to the good and leave off the bad.
but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
So there is no excuse for listening to someone generally and widely acknowledged to be a false teacher. A false teacher does not offer anything good. Their fruit is bad. You can’t follow them and expect them to produce one good fruit on the tree. Jesus said the tree is either all good or all bad.
Don’t eat of their fruit. Don’t quote them. Don’t buy their books. Don’t eat the meat and spit out the bones, which doesn’t even make sense because we are talking about fruit. When you are tempted to peek at a false teacher’s site/tweets/stream/Facebook/books, picture the debauched Bacchus with dirty fingernails on a dirty mattress offering you wormy rotted fruit.
Instead, we can imbibe of the sweet waters from the fountain of life and the pure bread from heaven.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community.
After seeing the list of “important” Christians you should follow, Crosswalk should not be your destination for anything. Why? Most of their list is populated by false teachers. Sadly, the author of this list states that she is a teacher/leader at her church. It is apparent that the author lacks discernment, which is terrible for a church teacher/leader. It’s clear that the publication’s editors lack discernment, too, because they allowed it to be published.
We can pair this list of who (not) to follow with a recent vlog by Challies-
If you were to scan the lists of the best selling Christian books of all time you’d see some truly amazing books there. You’d see some books that have helped us better understand who God is and books that have instructed us. and how we as Christians can live lives of obedience to Him, and like you, I’m genuinely thankful for these books. Sadly though, you’d also see some truly flat-out awful books. Today I’ve narrowed down that list to the five most ridiculous books to ever become Christian bestsellers.
Asked what the biggest problem facing the American church is, John MacArthur replied that it is a lack of biblical knowledge, a lack of biblical discernment. When you see a list like Crosswalk’s, this certainly seems to be sadly true.
And besides, didn’t the Bible tell us that no believer is more “important” than another? (Galatians 3:28, James 2). Their list is a who’s who of false teachers. The list is a slideshow, and as each page came up it got worse and worse. I couldn’t think of any worse people to put on the list if I tried. They’re all there. I thought to myself, “Surely they won’t put Joel Osteen on their list, but when he popped up at #15 my heart sank lower than the floor.
Anyway, here is Crosswalk’s list of “important” Christians you should follow in their order:
Candace Cameron Bure
Most of these people teach a false doctrine of one kind or another. I know that no one is perfect, and we all hold to some error at one time or another before being graciously corrected. However many of these people on the list teach not immature and temporary error, but permanently damning heresy. Meyer teaches (or taught) that she isn’t a sinner, and that Jesus went to hell and allowed satan to stomp all over His back. Joel Osteen refuses to preach half the Gospel (sin and wrath). Beth Moore gets extra-biblical revelation knowledge and purports to add to the canon by the prophecies and directives Jesus supposedly gives her.
These are actions that by God’s own word, the one who teaches them are doomed. (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Acts 20:28-30, 1 John 4:6, Titus 1:16, 2 Peter 2:3, Romans 16:18…)
Others teach error (Piper, for example) but at this point he can’t said to be false.
I’ve looked at Bure’s statement of faith and her life trajectory and can’t find anything that seems to contradict a foundational tenet or is a damaging teaching. So 1 out of the 20 might be solid, and she isn’t even a Bible teacher or preacher or ministry leader but is an actress (one who albeit takes her platform seriously and promotes Christian standards through the transparency of her life).
Discernment is spiritual insight that is honed by experience and age. However, discernment isn’t by osmosis. It doesn’t just drop in one’s lap. Wisdom is accrued through careful study of God’s word, prayer, and constant application. Through study, one becomes instantly familiar with what is true and what is false, even a little false. In other words, the discerning person has nuance and a humble spirit. The person who can discern displays biblical knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to proclaim it, apply it, and use it.
Ultimately, though, discernment comes from God. David prayed for discernment. Psalm 119:125 says (NIV)
I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes.
It’s obvious that the current global church lacks discernment in tremendous and devastating ways. Just as over the centuries, the leaders of Israel and eventually the Pharisees turned God’s glorious light and truth into a dark and perverse religion, today’s leaders of the Christian church have turned Christianity into a perverse and ridiculous paper tiger religion that saves no one.
Fortunately, God always has a remnant, which is what true believers are. We are certainly not the majority, if we ever were. A remnant, standing on the rock, proclaiming truth for the glorification of Jesus’ name remains unsullied. The rest, the so-called Christians on the top 20 list and their followers, are a crowd that lacks discernment, to their detriment, perhaps eternally.
Here is my list. Top 20 people not to follow- and why
Pray to the Spirit for wisdom and He will give it without reproach (James 1:5). Be wise as serpents regarding “Christian” publications including mine and others listed on this page. Use your eyes to see and ears to hear when reading or listening to Christian material. Compare to scripture and give no place to falsity. Jesus is too precious and His torture, death, separation from the Father too heart-rending to cover with any compromise in doctrine by accepting false teachers.
It’s too bad about Crosswalk. That list sure is ridiculous.
A reader alerted me to the fact that the original page has been removed. I searched Crosswalk, thinking it might have been moved to a different part of their site. I could not find it anywhere. I searched Google. I could not find a live version anywhere.
The screen shot is of the introduction to the original article, and the link is to the archived version at the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive).
Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries is coming to Athens, GA.
I strongly recommend that you not go see Lysa Terkeurst. Avoid her.
First, about her: Her website states Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books. She is also a speaker at conferences and a daily blogger. She is also wife and mom to 5 kids.
Here are some reasons to strongly consider avoiding Lysa TerKeurst in all her venues but especially in person when she arrives at Athens. These are in no particular order. All are a concern.
On August 9, 2016 in the Uninvited Book Release party held at Elevation on behalf of Lysa, (photo above) she once again claimed Elevation as her church and Furtick as her pastor, violating the degree of separation from false teachers demanded by the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:5, 2 Corinthians 6:14, Ephesians 5:7). Instead, she partners with them. (source- Uninvited Book Release Celebration webcast).
1a. In another recent partnership, Lysa recently spoke alongside these men. Aside from Furtick, an additional two have been fired from their pastorates for being unqualified because they fell below reproach. (1 Timothy 3:2). Not excellent. TerKeurst should be separating herself from these ‘leaders’, not supporting, promoting, and partnering with them.
A student will rise no higher than her teacher. So ladies, avoid Lysa TerKeurst, because her teachers, associates, and spiritual influences are very low.
2. Lysa preaches at the pulpit and at other venues in church, to men, violating a basic and clear scripture that women must not do so.
Source 1, TerKeurst at the Sunday morning service at Perry Noble’s church NewSpring;
Source 2, Steven Furtick introducing TerKeurst’s series of Sunday morning messages at Elevation Church, messages based NOT on the word of God but as a church they instead studied her book The Best Yes. Can you imagine not only violating a clear scripture that women do not preach, but using your own book as the basis for the message?!
Source 3, Mark Batterson (who is another false teacher), introducing TerKeurst at his church and asking the audience to receive the word she is about to bring.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
If a woman is supposedly knowledgeable enough about the Bible to be in the position of teaching and authoring, yet doesn’t understand or obey such a basic biblical truth, what does that say about the rest of her knowledge of the Bible? How can you trust that anything else she teaches you about the Bible is accurate and true?
If you follow Lysa you are partnering with her in her usurping rebellion, which is a sin. (James 4:17).
3. Lysa TerKerst teaches how to listen for the voice of God and to receive personal revelations.
As Learn to Discern Granny cited, with source page numbers from Uninvited, TerKeurst teaches that if you’re silent you’ll receive secrets and whispers and new information from Jesus, directly.
Now, Lysa also confesses she hears whispers from God. She relates, “I’ve got to spend time getting quiet so I can be prepared to hear new things from the Lord. Isn’t it a lovely thought that God might be waiting for silence … in order to share some of His best secrets with you? … in the silence, He whispered to my soul, You are not set aside, you are set apart ….” (p.112). Much like Sarah Young’s messages in Jesus Calling, Lysa, too, is saying she gets new revelations from the Lord.
Ladies, the canon is closed. (Revelation 22:18-19). Jesus is not currently speaking to individuals. He did that Himself in His incarnation, and via the Apostles and NT writers via His Spirit.
For example, she said at her book release party, emphasis mine:
I have this feeling that Uninvited is not going to be just a book. I have a deep feeling in my heart Jesus has decided that too many of His people have been held back by rejection. I want to know if you are in this room tonight and you are ready to embrace that the devil might be vicious but he will not be victorious. Can I get an Amen! Uninvited Book Release Celebration webcast
Bible teachers should not be saying they have any inkling at all of what Jesus has decided. Of all the things on this page and of the ones I listened to and read, this is the worst for me. It is highly dangerous for a ‘Bible’ teacher to go around purporting to speak for the secret things that Jesus has decided in His power and will. It is a gross perversion of our calling as submissive witnesses to His glory and exaltation.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9).
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ (Daniel 4:35).
Please avoid Lysa TerKeurst for these and other reasons, as noted in the articles linked below (which also have further links). It’s one thing when teachers such as this are ‘out there,’ but when they come to my city, a college town with vulnerable Christians and new babes in Christ who sit in the pews with me, it’s another thing entirely.
The same God who brought the Reformation in the sixteenth century is still at work today. His plan has not changed, and what He has purposed for His glory and our good will be accomplished.
On March 9-11, 2017, Ligonier Ministries hosted its 30th annual National Conference. Alistair Begg, Tim Challies, Leonardo De Chirico, Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Michael Horton, Steven Lawson, Augustus Lopes, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Stephen Nichols, Michael Reeves, Derek Thomas, and Stephen Tong joined R.C. Sproul to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and consider the future of the church.
During the conference, there was a Panel Discussion/Audience Q&A comprised of Steven Lawson, RC Sproul, Al Mohler, and John MacArthur. Thirteen questions were asked and answered on a variety of topics. Since I’m interested in discernment, and since we can learn much from the men who were assembled, I was especially interested in their answer to the following question:
How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false?
The answers were transcribed and this one begins at the 32:23 mark on the video, linked above.
Three good answers were given. Of course many other things can be said, they only had so much time and had other questions to discuss. Here is a synopsis of the three responses and I’ll add my own thoughts after that. You can view/read the full responses at the link above.
Dr Sproul said that when is a false teacher a false teacher is when he teaches falsehood. This might seem obvious but in this day and age where ‘tolerance’, ‘forgiveness’ and ‘non-judgmental-ness’ reigns, we have forgotten many of the basics. If he or she teaches falsehood, they are a false teacher. Would the Holy Spirit in us allow falsehoods to permeate a person and their teachings? No. His ministry is to point to Jesus.
Dr Al Mohler followed up Dr Sproul’s comment by saying that in addition to falsehood, any teacher who resists correction is also false. By the strict definition of teaching falsehood=false teacher, Apollos would have been false. However when he was corrected by Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos was glad, and accepted it. If you can think of some particular teachers today who teach falsely, and have definitely been contacted to repent of their falseness and given the truth, and they continue in falseness, then this helpful barometer might clear some confusion up as to who might be true and who might be false.
Dr MacArthur added another layer to the discussion with his response. A false teacher teaches falsely, but what would he be teaching that is false? In addition to behavior, (a truculent liar) what content does a false teacher teach?
MacArthur said that there are some absolutely non-negotiable truths that you are false if you deny the Trinity. If you deny the deity of Christ. If you deny His sinless life, substitutionary death, salvation by grace through faith, the gospel. That’s the drive-train of truth. Saving truth. Those are not negotiable.
So by those standards, and I admit there are others, a false teacher teaches things that are false (though not stated, would be additions to scripture in the form of personal thoughts, revelations, or visions) is uncorrectable, and twists or in some way denies the hard and fast basic truths of Christianity.
The Bible says not to add to His word, but it also says not to delete anything from His word. (Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19). If I can add my own thought to he conversation: any preacher who regularly and defiantly omits one of the basic truths from Christianity is also false. I think we can all think of the prime example here: Joel Osteen. He has been asked many times why he doesn’t preach sin or wrath, and he says that is not his calling. We can’t have the Good News of blessing and salvation if we do not know what the bad news of sin and our need for Jesus to escape God’s wrath.
One more thought: the Bible has only one skill standard for teaching: “able to teach” as stated in 1 Timothy 3:2. As Crossway defines able: “refers to the ability to communicate and apply the truth of Scripture with clarity, coherence, and fruitfulness”. The rest are behavioral/moral standards. Any false teacher might be able to teach the truths of scripture faithfully, appear to be correctable, but live in opposition to the standards the Bible commands. Jimmy Swaggart comes to mind here. And one does not have to be a rampant sinner seeking prostitutes to be living like hell, there are many Bible teachers whose greed and profligate living is well known, as well as many female teachers who usurp their husband’s and the church’s authority. Any of those are in opposition to God’s standards for life.
During the panel discussion, Sproul said Calvin said no theologian is ever more than 80 percent right. Sometimes when I bring up that so-and-so is false, I’ll receive this type of response. The person intimates that we must tolerate the false teachers, because after all, we all sin and no one is 100% right. I think this misses the point entirely. I agree we’re all sinners, and no one is perfect. As mentioned, Apollos was teaching partially. I don’t think that Peter, Paul John etc had no possibility of growth or understanding as they studied and matured in their walk. Even Jesus grew in stature and wisdom. (Luke 2:52).
The difference between one of the Apostles or Apollos or any true preacher today is that:
1) they want to teach truth, scrupulously,
2) they are correctable when error is pointed out,
3) their overall growth is in wisdom and stature as time goes on,
4) their heart’s desire is that Jesus is glorified and the saints are growing.
A false teacher
1) is greedy
2) opposes God
3) is uncorrectable
4) makes sons of hell twice as bad as they are
False teachers ahead: beware!
Photo by Braydon Anderson. Unsplash, free to use.
False teachers will always be with us until eternity begins and Jesus purges their blot from the new heavens and new earth. Praise Him for holiness and purity.
It says in 2 Timothy 3:13, evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse. The study note for that verse explains that “all the dangerous movements of the false teachers (cf. vv. 1-9) will become increasingly more successful until Christ comes. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:11).”
This is a sobering thought.
False teachers are a scourge and a plague. They are worse than locusts who sweep across the field and leave only broken and inedible crumbs in their wake. False teachers destroy souls. False prophets bring Jesus into disrepute and they steal His glory. Lest we believe that those who follow these false teachers and prophets are helpless victims, they are not. Followers of these locusts love to have it so. They actually heap up the false teachers to themselves. (2 Timothy 4:3).
False teachers have been around since even before the world was formed and satan was spreading his evil merchandise in heaven to his companion hosts. (Ezekiel 28:16). Jeremiah wrote in around 600BC about the evil, unholy trio of false priests, false prophets, and followers of both:
An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
The word in Hebrew for appalling is “a horror.” False teaching, false teachers, false prophets, and false converts who love them are a horror, from a word meaning ruin, desolation.
False teachers is a serious issue, people. We tend to want to lessen their impact by rationalizing. We want to decrease their evilness by calling them merely innocuous bones to spit out whilst we ingest otherwise good food. But is this how God sees them? No. He calls them and their followers a horror, a ruin, and a desolation.
False teachers and false prophets have been in existence since almost the beginning. False converts have also been with us, also. (Cain, anyone?). The 2 Timothy 3:13 verse reminds us that things will only get worse. The diffusion of evil will eventually blanket the world, and during its inexorable diffusion, its intensity will deepen.
The breach between light and darkness, so far from being healed, shall be widened [Henry Alford]
What this means for us is that we are at risk. We are more at risk than our parents or our grandparents, because as the verse says, things will get worse and worse. If we are at risk, then our children are more at risk. How are we at risk? Those who become false teachers want to deliberately ensnare you and me. They want to sell their merchandise because they are greedy. (2 Peter 2:3, 1 Timothy 6:5). If we for some reason are unstable or naive, we will be seduced. (2 Peter 2:14, Romans 16:18). The New Testament is rife with constant warnings. We can’t be content, ignorant, or relaxed about this.
Because we are all sinners, we can fall prey to these false teachers at any time. The antidote is not to be naive, but be wise. For we are not unaware of satan and his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). We must not be unstable, but cling to the solid Rock. Do this by constant repentance, persisting in the good works we’re commanded to do, and by prayer and study of His word. Envelop yourself with the blanket of His word.
I speak of this issue frequently. That’s for several reasons-
1. No matter where you read in the Bible, there is always either an issue of or a warning about false teaching. If it is a big deal to God, it is a big deal to me.
2. I am a woman, and women are even more at risk for falling into false teaching and following false converts. (1 Peter 3:7, 2 Timothy 3:6, 2 Corinthians 11:3).
3. Because as satan floods the church with false converts who in turn pile up false teachers, it will be harder and harder to detect the genuine. We are an army of forgiven soldiers whose job it is to love Jesus with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, with no room for false teaching and no quarter for false prophets. Don’t give sway to it.
4. Because the purer we are individually and as a body, the more we can glorify Jesus. Our chief end in life is to do this. Don’t waver in being steadfast against false teaching and false teachers. They are not misguided, innocuous, harmless, or temporarily errant. They are evil. They are a horror. They are a ruin. This means being being willing to call Beth Moore an evil, abhorrent horror. To say that Sarah Young, Paula White, and others are full of deceit. Can you? Will you?
False teaching is a never-ending battle. We return to Jeremiah, writing in around 600BC, 2,500 years ago-
For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich;
God asked in Jeremiah 5:31, ‘What will you do when the end comes?’ It is always the main question. Our lives are a vapor, this era is but a moment. To the Lord, it has been but two days since Jeremiah wrote, not over two thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8). The end will come, for us all. I pray I am still standing form on His truth. I pray you are too.