HOW TO SPOT A FALSE TEACHER (Timothy 9)
(READ 1 Timothy 4:1-5) When I was a young pastor, a man who was a false teacher came to my church, although I didn’t know he was a false teacher until later. He was very friendly and everyone liked him. He knew the Bible well and seemed to be a committed Christian. Before long, though, problems started coming up in the church. Each one could be traced back to things he was teaching people which weren’t Biblical. Because he was so convincing, many people believed him and followed his false ways. It was very difficult removing him. Some people left and never came back. The same thing happened several years later, only this time it was a woman instead of a man. The results were the same. She gathered a following because of her pleasing personality and acting very spiritual. False teachers like these people, can cause much harm in a church, especially if the leaders don’t stand up for the truth and remove the person. It wasn’t easy for me to do, nor was it easy for Timothy.
Paul has just described what godly leaders and workers are to be like. Next, he wrote about those who are ungodly, who work from within to bring destruction. Satan has always been more successful at attacking the church from within than from without. We must know how to protect God’s sheep and have victory over those who would mislead them.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). “Some” is a figure of speech meaning “a vast number.” The nearer it gets to Jesus’ return, the greater the number of those who turn from the faith. This isn’t just Paul’s opinion, “the Spirit clearly says” it and there can be no denying it.
“Abandon” is the Greek word from which we get “apostasy.” It literally means “to turn away from, to depart.” Some who claimed to be Christians will voluntarily turn from the truth of the Bible and reject some of its basic truths. But they don’t turn from the church of from calling themselves “Christians.” They stay in the fellowship and mislead whoever they can. Attacks from without usually make the church stronger as Christians stand together against the opposition. Attacks from within are much harder to defeat. People are deceived and start believing lies. This doesn’t come from God’s Spirit. Actually, it comes from Satan: “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Satan first did this with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and continues to do so today. He is very good at it.
We see many examples of this today. There are Christians, churches, even whole denominations who deny Jesus was born of a virgin and is both God and man. Many within the church don’t believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Eternal punishment is rejected because they say a loving God could never send anyone to hell. Some claim to be prophets or prophetesses and say they receive special knowledge from God. Others teach God wants everyone healed and wealthy. Still others say that we must do certain things to n or keep salvation. They deemphasize sin and push legalism and humanism. There are even some who go so far as to say abstaining from sex or certain foods makes you more spiritual (4:3-5). They claim to be knowledgeable authorities and speak with confidence and pride, but they are spreading lies for Satan. Timothy faced this and we still do today as well.
Paul calls these people “hypocritical liars.” “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (4:2). They may convince themselves they are right in what they believe, but that is because they have deadened their conscience against the Spirit’s warnings (4:2).
Paul is reminding Timothy that false teachers will come, and as the time of Jesus’ return approaches there will be more of them. While they seem sincere, they deceive and mislead those who don’t have a good knowledge of God’s Word. Don’t fear their opposition, stand true. Preach grace, not legalism.
When have you had to deal with false teachers? What happened? What should you do as soon as you know someone is teaching something contrary to God’s Word? Ask God to show you if you are ignorantly teaching anything that isn’t true.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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