HOW TO SPOT FALSE TEACHING (Titus 8)
READ: Titus 1:10-16
We’ve been talking a lot about false teachings in these blogs. Paul kept coming back to the subject in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. It was a big problem then and is today as well. T.D. Jakes says that God eternally exists in three manifestations, not three persons. Greg Boyd says God knows some aspects of the future, but that other future events are outside of his knowledge. Creflo Dollar says because we are created in the image of God, we are little gods. Mormonism says God revealed new scripture to Joseph Smith that supersedes the Bible. Roman Catholicism says we are justified by faith, but not by faith alone. It seems that almost every day something new comes along trying to counterfeit the truth. John tells us to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and Paul says to “test everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). God holds us, as pastors and leaders, responsible to examine everything that is taught to our people and make sure it is true. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error?
- The test of ORIGIN. Sound truth comes from God’s Word alone, false teaching is something man adds to God’s truth. It can be very deceptive, it may seem to make sense and the people teaching it may seem very sincere and godly, but unless it is clearly and completely taught in Scripture it is false. Truth comes from God alone (John 7:16; Galatians 1:11-12). True doctrine originates with the God who is true (Titus 1:2).
Paul warned the Colossian church to avoid doctrine that originates with man (Colossians 2:22) for it really has demons behind it (1 Timothy 4:1). God is the Father of truth and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). The test is this: “Does this teaching originate with God and His Word or has it been added by someone? Sometimes it’s easy to tell, but other times it can be difficult. When that happens, use the second test.
- The test of AUTHORITY. Truth is clearly founded on and fully supported by God’s Word, but false doctrine is based on sources other than the Bible. It may be the authority of a strong leader or popular Bible teacher. It could be human reasoning and rational explanations are used to support it. Perhaps it is based on the experience of a person. Or it could come from strong emotion: it just feels so right that it must be true. We must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They knew that all doctrines must be compared to God’s Word, His source of truth. Likewise, Paul praised the Thessalonians for their careful assessment and acceptance of his teaching because they understood its divine authority (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Sound doctrine originates in the mind of God and is recorded in His authoritative self-revelation, the Bible.
But what happens when two opposite teachings both claim the Bible teaches what they believe? How can we know which is true? Use test 3.
- The test of CONSISTENCY. God’s truth is supported by all of Scripture, not just a few questionable passages. Scripture is consistent and does not contradict itself. There is a sameness or familiarity to true doctrine and a strangeness or unfamiliarity to false doctrine. The writer who wrote the letter to the Hebrews warned his congregation about “diverse and strange teachings,” while Paul warned Timothy about accepting “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9; 1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3). Both emphasize that doctrine must always be compared to the established, accepted body of truth. Those who are knowledgeable about that body of truth will be in the best position to immediately identify and refute what is false. There is no contradiction or confusion in the mind of God, therefore there can be none in the Bible either.
What the Bible teaches in one place cannot be refuted in another. Therefore, any true doctrine must be consistent with the whole of Scripture. Doctrine must never be treated in isolation, but always in the light of a correct understanding of the entire Bible. We must always let Scripture interpret Scripture. Too many false teachers isolate verses or ideas that cannot withstand the scrutiny of the whole Book.
Once we have tested doctrine and found it to be true, according to these three criteria, we can also see its soundness by its effects on us and those around us. That is test 4.
- The test of SPIRITUAL GROWTH and GODLY LIVING. Sound doctrine brings spiritual growth (1 Timothy 4:6). Timothy is an example of this (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 1:5). Sound doctrine produces spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine leads to spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may not be true Christians at all. What we believe manifests itself in how we act. Truth is seen in holy living, falsehood and error are seen in pride, divisiveness, exclusiveness, self-righteousness and disobedience to the whole Word of God. The focus is on the false teaching and false teachers, not on Jesus.
A teaching is true when it is based on God’s Word, comes from God Himself, is consistent with all of Scripture and results in holy, righteous living and spiritual growth. Anything else is to be avoided like poison – for that’s what it is.
Jesus told the Christians in Thyatira to “hold fast what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25). Paul said a church leader must stay faithful to the truth so he can teach it and rebuke those who are in error (Titus 1:9). We must do the same (1 Corinthians 5:9). (October 2 2023 Doylestown, PA)
PAUL’S ADVICE: Learn to distinguish true doctrine from false, and turn from anything false.
Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
Do you understand the four tests above? Become very familiar with them so you can apply them when needed.
If there is any teaching going around which you aren’t sure of, use these tests on it now.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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