Did you know that 26 of the 27 books of the New Testament talk about false teachers or false prophets in some capacity? It is interesting to realize this little fact contained within Scripture. The realization of this fact helps us to understand the importance of sound biblical teaching and the real danger of false teaching leading people astray.
If the authors of Scripture were led by the Holy Spirit to issue such warnings or insight on the matter, then it must be significant and worthy noting no matter the time or culture.
False teaching has been around since the beginning, going back to the first false teacher, Satan. Eve was certain to hear nothing good when talking to a serpent beginning his question with “Did God really say?” From that time on, false teaching seems to carry this undercurrent of questioning what God says in His Word.
The Bible warns us that false christs and false prophets will arise with the ability to perform signs and wonders designed to lead others astray and that the elect are among those who are to be on guard against such things. We all believe ourselves to be immune from false teaching, but the truth is none of us are.
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time (Mark 13:22-23).
Personal background, upbringing, educational status, etc. do not keep us from potentially falling prey to teaching contradicting Scripture and sound Christian theology. As one author states, “If you cannot identify any voices you hear as false, it’s not because you aren’t being exposed, but because you’re falling for it in some way.”
The further we excel in technological advances, the easier it seems to propagate both sound teaching and erroneous teaching. I was shocked to see a study done by LifeWay Research in 2018 with 3,000 Americans and their responses to two particular questions.
Fifty-one percent of those asked said God accepts the worship of all religions and 78% of those asked believe Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God. These two beliefs alone run counter to fundamental Christianity and biblical teaching.
When we think of false teaching, we believe it will be some outlandish doctrine that is obvious to anyone of its error. However, when you see studies where those who profess Christ have improper Christology, then it becomes evident for the need for sound biblical teaching within the church and within our homes.
Same Problem, Different Day
The apostles of Christ dealt with false teaching in their time. The Apostle John wrote 1 John in order to address teaching denying the incarnation of Christ and His resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia concerning Judaizers who had come to believers with the law and the requirement of circumcision for salvation.
The Apostle Peter wrote 2 Peter, warning fellow believers of false teachers while encouraging them to grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jude wanted to write to his fellow brothers and sisters about their common salvation.
Instead, he was compelled to encourage them in contending for their faith due to false teachers becoming more prevalent. Jesus Christ warned of those who would come outwardly as sheep but inwardly were ravenous wolves (Luke 6:43).
The times have changed, but the modus operandi has not. False teaching can be subtle at times, even using the same verbiage and the same lingo so to speak, but all it takes is a test against the Word of God in its proper context to help us in spotting truth from error.
Therefore, it is vital to stay in the Word of God and to remain a student of the Word. The more we know and understand, the more we will spot false teaching, and the less we can be led astray.
The first inclination may be to not address the teachings and to ignore them. There can be an “out of sight, out of mind” approach or the view that God will deal with the false teachers. Why rock the boat? Why confront falsehood?
What we must remember is that false teaching leads people away from the true God. It results in believing in another gospel and another Christ that cannot save. This is an eternity issue. We speak up because we love others enough to warn them and to point them back to Jesus Christ, the One who the Word testifies.
The best place to begin is with the foundation of our belief, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If another gospel has been accepted, then another Christ has been as well. The foundation upon which faith is based must be sound.
Abide in the Word
As someone who had to unlearn some false teachings instilled for almost two decades, I find myself going to the Word of God more than I ever did and wanting to be sanctified by the truth of the Word (John 17:17).
Jesus responded to people who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, ESV). These verses have been a blessing to me in coming back to the truth found in Scripture.
The truth of His Word truly brings freedom, and as His disciples, we are to follow the teachings found in it. We are to be like noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). We are accountable to the truth and for the truth.
Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, “Discernment is not a matter of telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” This could not be truer than when understanding true biblical Christianity.
There are certainly secondary and even tertiary areas where disagreement will come, but the primary beliefs surrounding the gospel, Jesus Christ, the Trinity, etc. are sound.
Why Does This Matter?
For myself, when I hear someone teaching from the Word of God, I open my Bible to the referenced verses, and I read it in context. I also have two basic questions I ponder, which might be of help to you.
The first question is “Would I have read this passage in my private time and come to the same conclusion prior to hearing this teaching?” The second question I ask is “Do I understand the Word of God better than I did before this teaching?”
I also ask my pastor and the elders questions pertaining to Scripture as no individual is an island. The Word of God testifying of our beloved Lord and Savior is the truth, and we need to know what it says so that when false teaching comes knocking, we know the difference between right and almost right.
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Dawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.